October 24, 2008

Express yourself (blog) without getting fired

From the NY Law Journal, Express yourself without getting fired is a guide for bloggers who might run afoul of ethical rules and get into serious trouble.

June 22, 2008

What he found on the copier...

Pay attention to your surroundings... You have a duty to report ethics violations.

April 30, 2008

Conflicts Checks for Law Clerks

Lawyers often lose clients or are conflicted out of work because of conflicts of interest.

But what about law clerks?
Can what you do as a law clerk have an impact on the work that you do as a lawyer? Absolutely. Before you are hired -- even as a law clerk -- expect to be asked to produce information about legal and other work that you have done.

Be Prepared As you begin to do both paid and volunteer legal work, keep track of the names of the clients for whom you work and the issues on which you are working. Work as a clerk on one side of any matter -- litigation or transactional -- can keep you from being hired by a firm or agency working on the other side or on collateral issues.

Although rare, in some cases, working as a clerk on completely unrelated matters can preclude you from working at a firm doing work that is adverse to an employers' clients or issues. On occasion, work done before law school -- in a technical setting, for example -- can preclude hiring. Avoid embarrassment by being honest with prospective employers. In addition, your timely candor about potential conflicts can help everyone create a conflict-free place for you in a department or office walled off from potential conflicts.

Remember, the right to waive the conflict belongs to the client, not to the lawyers for whom you worked or those for whom you hope to work

Expect to receive a conflicts request from prospective employers before you accept an offer. You will be asked for a list of clients and matters on which you have worked. Of course, it's easier if you have kept a running list of your work. If you haven't done so, you may ask your previous employers for a client and matter list for a conflicts checks.

June 7, 2006

True Confessions (or "Do I Really Need to Tell Them About That?")

Bar examiners and prospective employers are increasingly asking for more information about your past as part of their "due diligence" before either certifying you for practice or hiring you as a permanent employee. Recent lapses in background verification, such as one well-publicized event at a local Twin Cities law firm, have raised warning flags for bar examiners and hiring authorities throughout the legal community. In addition, law schools are often asked by bar certification authorities for copies of an applicant's previous application to law school to compare with the paperwork submitted in support of bar admission. Discrepancies can get you in trouble with both the bar and your law school.

What to do? Our blanket advice is simple: "When in doubt, disclose." None of us has a completely pristine past and, for the most part, except for felony convictions, what happened when you were a rambunctious junior in high school won't keep you from the job of your dreams. That said, if there is anything that you think would give a reasonable person pause before allowing you to represent clients and collect a pay check, say so early on. At a minimum, you will be able to begin to address any concerns, apparent or real, that might preclude you from practicing law well in advance. You will also appear responsible, mature and, yes, professional. If you need background documentation, collect it before you disclose so that you can quickly provide answers to requests for more information. If you cannot obtain such documentation, explain as much about the circumstances as possible in detail, as well as why you can't provide paperwork at this time.

Finally, remember that, until you are admitted to the bar or officially hired, you are usually under a continuing duty to disclose information. In other words, if you get arrested the night before the bar exam on a DUI charge, you better let someone at the board of law examiners know, however embarrassing that may seem.