Monday, July 7, 2014

Risk News & Updates: Legal Ethics, Regulations and Matters of Firm Business

From the always linkable Legal Ethics Forum comes an interesting post from NY professor of Law Stephen Gillers: "When and How Does Change in Lawyer Regulation Happen?" in which he reviews a bit history behind the Model Rules, touching on Ethics 2000 and the ABA 20/20 Commission. And he lays down the gauntlet:
  • "…the current bar leadership will not be bold. In this, it is like the leaders of the 50s through the early 80s. It will be the next generations that approach the issues with  appetite for change."
  • "I suggest that legal scholars have been and will continue to be the antennae of the profession. The momentum for change, which is different, will come from elsewhere -- from economic forces (rules change when it is in the economic interest of lawyers to change them, witness the adoption of lateral screening after 20 years of rejection), and to beat back external threats (witness the 2003 amendments to Rules 1.6 and 1.13, after repeated rejections, in order to dissuade the SEC from invoking its full Sarbanes-Oxley powers; it worked)."
That blog also notes a recent New York decision: "New York joins California federal court in rejecting unfinished business claims" --
  • "We hold that pending hourly fee matters are not partnership "property" or "unfinished business" within the meaning of New York's Partnership Law. A law firm does not own a client or an engagement, and is only entitled to be paid for services actually rendered."
  • "Treating a dissolved firm's pending hourly fee matters as partnership property, as the trustees urge, would have numerous perverse effects, and conflicts with basic principles that govern the attorney-client relationship under New York law and the Rules of Professional Conduct. By allowing former partners of a dissolved firm to profit from work they do not perform, all at the expense of a former partner and his new firm, the trustees' approach creates an "unjust windfall," as remarked upon by the District Court Judge in Geron (476 BR at 740)..."

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