Legal Ethics

Ever wonder what that kid from the Sixth Sense would have been when he grew up? Seeing dead people could really get in the way of most careers. It turns out we have the perfect career for him: lawyer. It’s probably time for a sequel.

Because there’s a guy out there right now using his J.D. to be a psychic. I guess more technically, the subject of this story is a medium, meaning he does less predicting the future (convenient) and more communicating with the spirits of the departed. Or taking advantage of a bunch of vulnerable and bereaved people with easily understood cold reading techniques. But who am I to crash the party with science?

Billing himself as The Psychic Lawyer®, he supplements his career as “a successful attorney and certified mediator, licensed to practice law in Florida, Washington D.C., and before the United States Supreme Court” by telling people what they want to hear the spirits of their loved ones have to say.

Being a medium is one thing. But why advertise that you’re also a lawyer? Aren’t you just tanking your credibility in both fields?

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That pesky expert witness is claiming that a AAA battery can’t injure your client as much as you claim. How do you undermine his testimony? Confronting him with strongly-worded questions informed by careful scientific research is one way.

Trying to electrocute him is another way.

Guess which one the lawyer chose in this case?

Oh, Watt the hell, I’ll spoil it, the lawyer tried to electrocute him….

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Image via The Billable Hour Co. If you’d like one of these for your own, check them out here.

I was instructed to take voluminous fax documents from boards, count the pages, estimate how long it would take him to read had he done so, and charge a pro-rata share of $375 an hour, which greatly increased his revenue. He billed my time at $150 an hour while he paid me only $15 an hour. This and other shenanigans artificially pumped up his billing from $150,000 to well over $395,000 for one [homeowner association] case, made up of nonexistent time he claimed he spent researching the client’s case.

– Anonymous law clerk who wrote the Los Angeles Times to ask if he should report his boss’s shady billing practices. The boss also fittingly makes a point of billing clients for the time they exhaust complaining to him about his bills.

* For the third year in a row, Skadden has topped the list of the Biglaw firms GCs love to pay, the firms with the best brands. Kirkland & Ellis and Latham & Watkins rounded out the top three. Congratulations! [PRWeb]

* A federal judge struck down Wisconsin’s voter identification law yesterday, noting that it “only tenuously serve[d] the state’s interest in preventing voter fraud.” Ouch. Sorry about that, Scott Walker. [Bloomberg]

* Hot on the heels of the release of the second annual ATL Law School Rankings, we’ve got a list of the law schools where graduates reportedly have the least amount of debt. We’ll have more on this news later today. [The Short List / U.S. News & World Report]

* It was kind of like the night of the living dead in Oklahoma last night, where an execution was botched so badly the defendant attempted to rise up off the table. That must have been horrific. [New York Times]

* Here’s an eligible bachelor alert: After being suspended from practice for six months for filming “upskirt” videos of women in public, this in-house lawyer has been reinstated. [Legal Intelligencer (reg. req.)]

* Poor Justice Lori Douglas. Not only are her kinky S&M pictures floating around somewhere online, but the man who took them — her husband, Jack King — just died. RIP, good sir. [CTV Winnipeg News]

* NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, a former Cravath lawyer, fouled L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling out of the league, but people are questioning whether his punishment was legal. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

Andi Dorfman

First we heard that Bachelor contestant and now Bachelorette Andi Dorfman, a prosecutor at the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office, left her job to star on The Bachelorette.  That would not be too offensive except that she left mid-murder trial, leaving her coworkers high and dry.  Though, she was apparently assisting on the trial, so there was likely another district attorney to take over the reins.  Still, her boss called the leave “highly unusual,” and it seems to be a disservice to the public for a prosecutor to leave in the middle of a murder trial for a TV show.

Now, there is word that attorney and former Bachelorette contestant Craig Robinson allegedly left his client high and dry to star on the show.  The case was your run-of-the-mill slip-and-fall matter.  Robinson apparently left for the TV show just before the case was to go to trial, resulting in a dismissal of the case…

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Several years back, the Washington Post uncovered multiple instances of federal judges committing basic ethical breaches related to ruling on cases despite holding significant financial stakes in one party. It was an embarrassing black eye for the federal judiciary and the legal system altogether. It forced the bench to develop a comprehensive financial reporting system and an automated computer check to avoid any further ethical lapses. Sounded reasonable at the time.

Well, it turns out the computer system doesn’t work.

Or at least it doesn’t work as well as anyone would have hoped. The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) just released a report this morning reflecting their efforts to manually review a sampling of federal court decisions and cross-check those with financial disclosure forms. The report found multiple lapses. The most egregious involved a judge with as much as $100,000 in Johnson & Johnson when he ruled in their favor on an appeal regarding a malfunctioning implant.

But by and large the legal world’s responses to these findings vary from tone-deaf to downright hypocritical….

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* REMEMBER: The last day to vote for your favorite entry in our Law Revue contest is SUNDAY at 11:59 p.m.

* Okay, law students! How far would you go for silence in the library? [Legal Cheek]

* An attorney was suspended for two years for beating up girlfriend who he began dating while she was still a client. But the real punishment seems to be the extensive text message communications attached to the decision. It’s like a teacher making you read the note you were passing out loud in front of the whole class. Cringeworthy clinginess. [The Oklahoma State Courts Network]

* Lawyer’s alleged drunken air rage diverts a trans-Atlantic flight to Dublin. Because if you have a potentially quarrelsome drunk, dropping him off in Ireland is the right answer. [Irish Times]

* Aeropostale is suing H&M over the phrase, “Live Love Dream.” Maybe what they save on originality they pass along to the consumer. [Fashionista]

* This is how all trials should end. [Condé Nast Collection]

* The wrongfully accused — like the people bullied into pleading guilty to crimes they didn’t commit — are given a raw deal in more ways than one. [Policy Mic]

* Woman arrested after she called the crime lab posing as a court employee and tried to get her evidence destroyed. Well, it was worth a try. [The Times-Picayune]

Something like this is a no-no in several states.

* Leonard M. Rosen, one of the name partners of Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz, died earlier this week. Our very own Managing Editor David Lat once sat three doors down from this respected restructuring maven. Rest in peace. [Bloomberg]

* A judicial ethics board has recommended that this judge be removed from the bench because she once “sold out her clients, her co-counsel, and ultimately herself.” Oh Flori-duh, you give us so many reasons to <3 you. [Sun Sentinel]

* Gov. Christie named Dean Patrick Hobbs of Seton Hall Law as ombudsman for New Jersey’s executive branch. Congrats, but looks like Seton Hall may need a new dean. Update: Nope, it’s just part-time. Huzzah for Seton Hall! [New Jersey Law Journal]

* A woman working in retail was put on four months of forced maternity leave when she was four months pregnant. She’s due after her forced maternity period is up. Of course she’s suing. [Los Angeles Times]

* ICYMI, here’s a list of all of the fine states in America where blowjobs are illegal, but necrophilia is a-okay — or “anti-blowjobs, corpse-sex-friendly states,” as Adam Weinstein ever so eloquently puts it. [Gawker]

* ATTENTION LAW STUDENTS: Tomorrow is the last day to enter our annual Law Revue competition. The deadline is tomorrow at 5 so send them in. Entries have been coming in all day, so don’t get left out. [Above the Law]

* It looks like the Supreme Court just made a decision even worse than McCutcheon. [SCOTUSBlog]

* New York’s disciplinary procedures for lawyers are “deficient in design and operation.” So come to New York if you plan on being a shady lawyer, I guess. [NY Times]

* More on the law school apology by Erwin Chemerinsky and Carrie Menkel-Meadow that Lat wrote about yesterday. [The Write Stuff]

* And, hey, while we’re at it, here’s Steven J. Harper’s take on the same Op-Ed. [The Lawyer Bubble]

* UC Hastings Professor Osagie Obasogie is quoted in this informative piece about the changing nature of collegiate debate as it ventures more and more into the domain of critical race theory. As one of the people who helps run the CEDA tournament discussed in the article, I thought this was an interesting account. [The Atlantic]

* FBI makes a cheesy video to teach young Americans not to spy for China. It’s really worth a watch. [National Journal]

* A high school teacher in Australia won a defamation suit against a student who said mean things on Facebook. [IT-Lex]

* The Legal Broadcast Network interviewed Kyle McEntee of Law School Transparency about how improved tools help law students. [Legal Broadcast Network]

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Most days, I’m proud of owning my own small law firm. And while technically, I’m not a solo — I’ve had an assistant for over eight years now as well as a revolving crew of of counsel, part-time associates and independent contractors — many of my colleagues lump me and most very small law firms into that category nonetheless. So when other solos act foolishly or unprofessionally, it reflects poorly on the rest of us.

Understand, I’m not picking on solos.  Let’s face it — large law firms are hardly paragons of upstanding conduct; one needn’t look further than the recent Dewey & LeBoeuf scandal as proof. But for whatever reason, when Biglaw behaves badly, that conduct doesn’t diminish the reputation of Biglaw in the eyes of judges and other lawyers as it does for solos.  

So that’s why it bugs me when solos do stupid — and often avoidable — things. Here are my top three peeves:

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