Pamela J. Anderson, Esq. has more 15 years of experience as a contract attorney in California. During this time, she has developed a heightened awareness of common, easy-to-overlook violations of The California Rules of Professional Conduct that have quite serious consequences. In our new course, Anderson examines how practicing attorneys can deal with these “real life” ethical issues.
Though they may seem abstract to attorneys caught up in the day-to-day realities of law practice, the California rules affect many different aspects of practice. Making expedient, quick decisions, with easy-to-overlook implications, can carry major consequences. The course covers the following rules:
- Rule 1-300 – Not aiding in the “Unauthorized Practice of Law.”
- Rule 1-320 – Not making financial arrangements between lawyers and non-lawyers.
- Rule 1-400 – Staying within what is permitted for lawyer advertising.
- Rule 2-100 – Not communicating with represented parties.
- Rule 3-100 – Revealing client communications in order to prevent a crime resulting in death or substantial bodily harm.
- Rule 3-200 – Not bringing claims not warranted by existing law, unless the lawyer has a good faith argument for extension, modification or reversal of the law.
- Rule 3-300 – Avoiding interests adverse to a client.
- Rule 3-500 – Keeping the client informed.
- Rule 3-700 – Terminating employment when client difficult, or not paying.
- Not violating Civ. Code 2944.7 and 6106.3 regarding loan modification work.
Anderson has practiced business, real estate, probate and trust litigation, having overseen real estate transactions, trust administration and estate planning, and business formation. Her experience includes both federal and state court. Anderson has personally responsible for as many as 26 active matters simultaneously. She received her J.D. from the University of Colorado Law School. She is a member of California Bar.
Photo Credit: Ania Mendrek Flickr via Compfight cc
We just published a new course Cyber Threats and The Duty of Confidentiality , which takes a look at some of the new cyber threats faced by practicing attorneys in California. Unfortunately, as we see continually today, the world is an increasingly unsafe place for digital information. This has an impact on the attorney’s duty of confidentiality.
California attorneys owe their clients a duty of confidentiality. This is covered by Rule 3-100 of The Rules of Professional Conduct. A huge change in the scope and scale cyber attacks, however, have created new challenges for compliance with this rule. In addition, Section 952 of the California Evidence Code prohibits disclosures of client information to third parties. This is literally impossible on the Internet. This course explores some of the new, surprising ways that attorneys are vulnerable to ethics complaints, malpractice complaints and civil litigation in the new era of cyber security. The course also suggests some approaches to risk mitigation that are practical for large and small law firms.
Resources to Go with Ethical Considerations for Virtual Law Offices (VLOs) – Course #ET161001
In our California MCLE ethics course “Ethical Considerations for Virtual Law Offices,” taught by Brenda Edwards, Esq., you will hear references to a number of websites that contain helpful information and resources for virtual law offices (VLOs). The following is a list of those sites and other resources.
- Entity form: other states versus CA (professional company versus LLC); filing as foreign company
- Forming a California-based professional corporation:
- Out-of-state: I.e. Oregon-can create an LLC
- Duty of competence in using third-party technologies in course of client representations. http://ethics.calbar.ca.gov/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=wmqECiHp7h4%3d&tabid=837
- Browser security: SSL
- State Bar of California’s Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct, in Formal Opinion 2010-179, states
- Encryption plug ins for law firms
- Cloud-based software
- Client funds/security of documents
- links to forms: http://ethics.calbar.ca.gov/Ethics/ClientTrustAccountingResources.aspx
- CA State Bar advisory opinion: http://ethics.calbar.ca.gov/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=ngt5WX-QswE%3D&tabid=836
- flat fee/retainer fees: https://www.sfbar.org/ethics/opinion_1980-1.aspx
- lawpay: https://lawpay.com/how-it-works/faq/
- Scams using client accounts-common where face-to-face contacts are not necessary to effect a business transaction
- Summary Advisory Opinion on virtual law offices (VLO): http://ethics.calbar.ca.gov/Portals/9/documents/Opinions/CAL%202012-184-ADA.pdf
Here is a description of the course itself:
Virtual Law Firm. Virtual Law Office. Virtual Law Practice. All are practices in which attorneys work remotely using technology, and all are gaining in popularity in California due to their convenience and efficiency. With their virtual nature, however, virtual law firms raise potential ethical issues as the California Rules of Professional Conduct were designed with brick-and-mortar law firms in mind. It’s essential to understand how virtual practices can run afoul of these rules and act proactively with your firm. For example, are you violating the ethical standard of maintaining a client trust account in California (client’s residence) if you and the client reside in different states and funds are held electronically through online payments? (Rule 4-100: Preserving the Identity of Client Funds and Property of the Client) In this course, Brenda J. Edwards, Esq., a practicing California estate law attorney who has built her own virtual law firm, will share her proven recommendations for building an ethically sound virtual practice. In particular, the Course will address Rule 1-300 in relation to the ethical formation of your business entity (being aware of state entity formation limitations so you are not unwittingly engaged in the unauthorized practice of law), Rule 3-100 (maintaining confidentiality of client information and acting competently when relying on third parties to protect that information), Rule 3-500 (communication with clients while mitigating security risks), Rule 1-400 (advertising and solicitation rules that are easily forgotten, down to the size of the font required for the words “advertising” and the length of time you must maintain copies of mailing circulars), Rule 3-410 (professional liability insurance requirements: When you must have it and when you must disclose you don’t), and Rule 4-100 (preservation of the identify of client funds and property of the client within the virtual realm).
To reach Brenda Edwards, please contact her at email@example.com or by phone at (888) 859-9483.
To order the course, please visit [LINK].
Each year, new cases coming before the courts in California pose interesting questions about legal ethical issues relevant to practicing attorneys in California. Some current highlights include the following.
Case: Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, LLP v. J-M Manufacturing Co., Inc. (2016) 244 Cal.App.4th 590 — Second Appellate District, Division Four, January 29, 2016
Question: Is it sufficient to have a general, advance conflict-of-interest waiver in order to spare a firm from a finding that it violated Rules of Professional Conduct? In particular, this would regard rule 3-310, with the circumstances being a simultaneous conflict between existing clients? What do you think?
Case: Martin Potts & Associates, Inc. v. Corsair, LLC (2016) 244 Cal.App.4th 432 — Second Appellate District, Division Two, January 28, 2016
Question: It is necessary for an attorney to always disclose reasons for a mistake, neglect, surprise or inadvertence in order for the client to have a default judgment vacated under Code of Civil Procedure section 473, subdivision, (b)? What do you think of this California legal ethics question?
Case: Ontiveros v. Constable (2016) 245 Cal.App.4th 686 — Fourth Appellate District, Division One, February 18, 2016
Question: If there is a derivate suit, over which there is an objection from a minority shareholder, can an attorney continue to represent both the corporation, the majority shareholder and its CEO? What do you think?
Case: Costello v. Buckley (2016) 245 Cal.App.4th 748 – Fourth Appellate District, Division One, March 16, 2016
Question: If a lawyer learns information about a client that is unrelated to existing representation, can the attorney later be adverse to the client in litigation where the information is material? What do you think?
Case: Ardon v. City of Los Angeles (2016) 62 Cal.4th 1176 — Supreme Court of California, March 17, 2016
Question: In what ways does a governmental entity’s inadvertent release of privileged documents waive attorney-client privilege or work-product privilege – in this case, the release was in response to a Public Records Act request. What do you think?
We offer several well-received CA Ethics MCLE courses. But, if you need real guidance on an actual ethics question in your practice, you might want to call the State Bar Ethics Hotline. The CA Bar runs an ethics research service just for attorneys. Their phone number is (800) 238-4427. Or, link to them at the California Bar site.
Asking a Hypothetical California Legal Ethics Question
Here’s how it works: You can call and ask a hypothetical question. It will be answered by the Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct (COPRAC). You can ask for a formal opinion, too. For details, look at Section 6 of the Committee’s Rules of Procedure of the State Bar.
COPRAC is subject to a number of rules. In some cases, they are not able to issue an opinion. For example:
– If your local bar association has an ethics committee.
– If your request is already subject to a Bar complaint, litigation, investigation or proceeding.
– If your issue is a complaint against a member of the State Bar.
– If you’re asking about Bar procedures about processing complaints against members of the State Bar.
– If you’re asking about law that is not related to governing lawyers.
– If your issue relates to sanctions like contempt, that are within the purview of the courts.
Also, it can take a while for the committee to issue an opinion. There’s a 90-day public comment period. Them, there’s a 30-day approval period with the State Bar Board of Trustees. These periods themselves follow a drafting process, which can also take time.
In the meantime, we’ve got CA MCLE Ethics
In the meantime, you can learn about relevant ethics issues with our CA Ethics MCLE courses. We offer the four CA Bar-approved MCLE ethics credits you need to comply with your MCLE requirements as a member of the California Bar.