Legal Ethics

We don’t cover the goings-on over at Top Law Schools very often. It’s such a vibrant online community that one could devote an entire second site to meta-coverage of TLS. But over the last couple of weeks, a scandal of sorts has been unfolding. It is unusual enough that we figured it’s worth talking about.

An LSAT tutor by the name of Dave Hall has, for some time, promoted his business over at the TLS forums. He conducts most of his teaching over the internet, and he appears to have a fairly solid fan base on the site. Recently, he landed in some pretty hot water when his longstanding claim of receiving three perfect LSAT scores turned out to be untrue.

The site erupted in conspiracy theories, harsh criticism, and allegations of forging documents. In the midst of the hullabaloo, another tutoring service sued Hall for unfair competition.

Who knew the dreary world of test prep services could be so dramatic? Well, we spoke to Hall about the situation he’s found himself in. The story is not quite what you might expect….

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* Rob me once, shame on you; rob me twice, shame on me? Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer was robbed for a second time, but this time as the victim of a burglary on May 4. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Dewey know when this ship is finally going to capsize (so we can stop making these puns)? Two of D&L’s Hong Kong partners have decided to defect to DLA Piper, and more may be joining them soon. [Asian Lawyer]

* He might’ve been a “bad husband,” but that doesn’t mean he’s guilty. The jury in John Edwards’s campaign finance trial will begin deliberating today. Let’s see if they convict him of being more than an adulterer. [CNN]

* After his citizenship stunt, Eduardo Saverin can look forward to being defriended by the United States — not like that’s a bad thing, because to be honest, the movie version of him is much cuter. [New York Daily News]

* And this is why lawyers shouldn’t try to be funny. Safeway’s General Counsel, Robert Gordon, is being branded a sexist for telling a recycled joke about pigs and D.C.’s most powerful women. [Corporate Counsel]

* A three month suspension has been recommended for a former Treasury Department attorney who attempted to steal ties from Nordstrom. What, he couldn’t spring for a Neiman’s run? [National Law Journal]

* If you bought those stupid ass Skechers Shape-Up shoes in the hope that your booty would look like Kim Kardashian’s, you can get a piece of the $40M settlement. Not bitter, not at all. [Los Angeles Times]

We’ve seen some heated deposition transcripts in the past, but we didn’t know that simply scheduling a deposition could get so nasty. Clearly, we’ve never practiced in Texas, a place where Biglaw lawyers occasionally have to contend with “pansy” opposing counsel.

And, you know, have sanctions sought against them for their allegedly inappropriate email correspondence.

We’ve got a fun one today, folks. A partner at Cozen O’Connor in Dallas sent a string of allegedly abusive emails to opposing counsel when the lawyers couldn’t agree on a schedule for depositions. And we know all this because the emails are part of the record in the motion to sanction the Cozen partner.

UPDATE (5/17/2012, 11 AM): We’ve added a link to the full motion for sanctions, after the jump.

Actually, make that former partner. Keep reading, to find out what may have led to the partner’s departure from the firm….

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I work in a highly competitive sales market. Underhanded deeds, though never perpetrated by my clients, are de rigeur in this field. There seems to be an ethical handbook for sales folks that has a theme of “ethics smethics –- close the deal at all costs.”

At quarter-end, or worse, year-end, this mantra can infect an attorney’s most rigid values. It is at these times when we must be on guard against the pressure to close. The pot at the end of the rainbow will look rather less shiny when tarnished by an ethics violation. None of this is news to most in-house folks.

With an economy on a slow crawl back to health, and internal pressures from all sides to cut costs and maximize revenue, shenanigans from sales people are rife in war story lore. But what of bad behavior by customers? I can tell you that after my years in-house, when I thought I’d already seen it all in private practice, I was quite wrong….

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Respondent brandishes his opinion as a battering ram, intentionally offending people. This Panel does not believe these are “slips of the tongue” or inadvertant. Respondent is intentional in his conduct and bull whips people by his words with a zeal. While in private life he may be as rude, offensive and demeaning as he chooses, in his professional life he may not hide behind his First Amendment rights to ignore his sworn responsibilities.

– Presiding Disciplinary Judge William J. O’Neil of the Arizona Supreme Court, in a recent ethics opinion concluding that attorney Meyer L. Ziman should be suspended for one year’s time, with reinstatement on probation.

(So what did Ziman allegedly do that was bad enough to warrant his suspension? Let’s find out, after the jump.)

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Benchslap of the Day: Rude, Crude, and a Bad Attitude”

Lawyers: the same as trees?

As the superior court aptly observed, “The fact that the meeting occurs in a public place does not destroy the privilege, if no one hears the conversation.”

– Associate Justice Robert J. Lynn of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, in an opinion upholding the existence of the attorney-client privilege, despite the fact that an attorney discussed confidential information with his clients at a meeting that was open to the public.

Will Rielle Hunter take the stand?

* Dewey need to declare bankruptcy yet? While the delusional firm has “no plans to file bankruptcy,” partner defectors and retirees are being advised to contact personal bankruptcy lawyers ASAP. [New York Times]

* When Dewey become a part of the great unwashed? When you’re being sued for $300K in unpaid janitors’ bills. But that claim’s going to be nickel and dimed, just like the firm’s partner guarantees. [Businessweek]

* Maybe Greenberg Traurig ditched its merger talks with D&L because they had problems of their own. The firm apparently laid off staff to achieve a 4-to-1 attorney-secretary ratio. [Daily Business Review (sub. req.)]

* The judge presiding over the John Edwards campaign finance trial denied a motion to dismiss the charges against the former presidential candidate. Like all the rest of us, Judge Eagles probably just wants to see if he and his baby mama, Rielle Hunter, will take the stand. [MSNBC]

* In the wake of the Elizabeth Warren controversy, many have wondered what goes into law school hiring decisions. Generally, they look for good teachers, but being 1/32 Native American certainly helps. [ABC News]

* Try to bring up ethics charges on the Wisconsin justice who allegedly choked a bitch in chambers, and you might find your career as Chairman of the state’s Judicial Commission in a stranglehold. [Telegraph Herald]

Female attorneys must be on the same cycle in Illinois, because based on all of the ethics complaints that have come down the pipeline, they’ve been acting a little crazy.

Today’s tale of alleged attorney misconduct comes to us as a result of a former public defender’s behavior in court. It’s nowhere near as juicy as the allegations against Reema Bajaj or Tamara Tanzillo, but it’s certainly a cautionary tale for lawyers everywhere who get a little hot-headed when they’re arguing before the bench.

Before you can say “oh sh*t,” let’s get down to the allegations….

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If you’ve been representing someone in a knock-down, drag-out, decade-long divorce action, with no end in sight, it’s understandable that you’d be a little pissed off. And while some attorneys prefer to write “not so sincere” letters calling opposing counsel “a**holes,” others find more creative ways to channel their anger for the sake of poetic justice.

And while poetry may be the best way to make passive-aggressive complaints about your case, the next time you’re considering writing a four-page, 60-line email riffing on a classic holiday poem, you might want to consider your audience. Some people might not be fans of your rhyme scheme….

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Reema Bajaj: lawyer accused of prostitution

Let’s take a break from the sad and serious story of Dewey & LeBoeuf’s downfall and turn (or return) our attention to another kind of going down. In more salacious, racy fare, we bring you updates about female legal eagles who have flown high in these pages before — and now might find themselves crashing earthward.

The first is Reema N. Bajaj, a beautiful young Illinois lawyer who has been accused — perhaps unfairly — of prostitution charges. The second is Madam Justice A. Lori Douglas, a Canadian judge whose nude photos made their way to the internets.

So what’s the latest news about Bajaj and Douglas? Here’s a hint: What does each share in common with Bill Clinton?

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