Solo & Small Firms: 10 Ethics Red Flags You Need To Know


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On June 27, 2013 Nicole Black and Carolyn Elefant presented, Solo & Small Firms: 10 Ethics Red Flags You Need To Know. In this webinar recap you will learn about the top ten ethical red flags your firm should consider when taking on new technology.

Covered topics include:
- Confidentiality and security considerations when using cloud and mobile solutions
- Attorney-client relationships, advertising, and other challenges when using social and online platforms
- Virtual law office ethical issues, avoiding the unauthorized practice of law
- Escrow account issues, alternative billing, outsourcing, and more

Published in: Business, Technology
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Solo & Small Firms: 10 Ethics Red Flags You Need To Know

  1. 1. Solo & Small Firms: 10 Ethics Red Flags You Need To Know Carolyn Elefant & Nicole Black Thursday, June 27, 13
  2. 2. About MyCase MyCase web-based law practice management software built for solo and small firms like yours. Practice More, Manage Less. Benefits include: •Leave Your Briefcase At The Office – practice anywhere at anytime •Grow Your Practice Faster – streamline and simplify your routine tasks so you have more time to focus on your clients •Get Happy Clients– Communication with clients is better, easier, and completely secure with our integrated client portal Thursday, June 27, 13
  3. 3. About Our Speaker Nicole Black is an Attorney in Rochester, New York, and the Business Development Director at MyCase. She is also an ABA- published author of Cloud Computing For Lawyers and co-author or Social Media For Lawyers. NICOLE BLACK, ATTORNEY Author of “Cloud Computing for Lawyers” and Co-Author of “Social Media for Lawyers” Thursday, June 27, 13
  4. 4. About Our Speaker Carolyn Elefant is the Founder and Principal Attorney with the Law Offices of Carolyn Elefant in Washington D.C. She is also an ABA- published author. She wrote Solo By Choice and is the co-author of Social Media For Lawyers CAROLYN ELEFANT, ATTORNEY Author, Solo by Choice & Co-Author, Social Media for Lawyers Thursday, June 27, 13
  6. 6. 6 Chilling effect on lawyers and innovation . . . I don’t want to take a chance and be a test caseOh good, I can keep competitors off my turf! Thursday, June 27, 13
  7. 7. 7 ETHICS RED FLAGS IN 21st CENTURY PRACTICE •Anything invented in the 21st century •Anything used by someone under the age of 80 •Anything that makes life easier for lawyers and clients •Anything that ordinary common sense would assume is OK, but only a lawyer could suggest is deceptive Thursday, June 27, 13
  8. 8. 8 Ethics Red Flags •Client Communication •Alternative Billing •Web-based Advertising •Social Media •Escrow Account Issues •Cloud Computing •Virtual Law Offices •Outsourcing •Alternative Business Models •Mobile Computing Thursday, June 27, 13
  9. 9. 9 Alternative Billing / Fees •Payment by credit card ! - Red flag: Trust account, charge backs •Flat fees ! - Red flag: Earned on receipt or end of agreement •Subscription fees ! - Red flag: Reasonableness •Referral fees ! - Red flag: Prohibitions on referrals, fee splitting Thursday, June 27, 13
  10. 10. 11 Social Media •General - social media changes media not message - same ethics rules, different format •Testimonials •“Specialization” (LinkedIn) •Confidentiality (communicating with clients publicly at sites?) •Unethically “friending witnesses?” •Social media and friending judges - yes or no? •Blogging about client cases without consent (VA says no - Hunter case) •Mining social media for evidence Thursday, June 27, 13
  11. 11. 14 Secure Client Communication •Email inherently unsecure •Model Rule 1.1 revision and duty to stay abreast of changes to technology •Secure encrypted communication •Client portals Thursday, June 27, 13
  12. 12. 15 Alternative Business Models •Unbundled legal services ! - Red flag: reasonableness •Affiliate relations/branded networks -Red flag: Conflicts of interest, imputed partnership, appearance of operating as a firm when not - Trade names - Pay for referrals/fee splitting Thursday, June 27, 13
  13. 13. 16 Web-based advertising •Attorney-Client Relationship •Disclaimers •No Deception/Exaggeration •Educational vs. Promotional Thursday, June 27, 13
  14. 14. 17 Escrow Account Issues •Online Payment •21st Century Considerations Thursday, June 27, 13
  15. 15. 19 Cloud Computing •Take Reasonable Steps to Ensure Confidential Client Data Stays Secure •Absolute Security is an Impossibility •Important Considerations: • Extraction of data • Geo-redundancy • Encryption of data • Frequency of data back up • Questions to ask providers--full list here: hyFBxo • ABA chart summarizing state ethics opinions: http:// Thursday, June 27, 13
  16. 16. 21 Mobile Computing •Same standard as cloud computing •Inventory devices •Password protection •Sanitize devices when discarded •Texting with clients? Thursday, June 27, 13
  17. 17. 22 Virtual Law Offices •Bonafide Office Rules •UPL •Duty to supervise •Effective Client Communication Thursday, June 27, 13
  18. 18. 23 Final Considerations •To the extent possible, use retainer agreements to address many of these issues (21st Century Retainer Agreement book & forms for order at •Don’t be a naysayer - presume it can be done unless bar explicitly says no •Review ethics rules and opinions & do your own analysis - don’t listen to anyone else Thursday, June 27, 13
  19. 19. 24 Thank You! Carolyn Elefant Solo by Choice & Social Media for Lawyers available at Amazon; 21st Century Retainer Agreement available at (side menu) Nicole Black Cloud Computing for Lawyers & Social Media for Lawyers available at Amazon *DON’T FORGET TO COMPLETE THE SURVEY FOR CLE CREDIT Thursday, June 27, 13