Ethically Supervising Paralegals and Nonlawyer Staff and Law Office Management (On-Demand)

Ethics Credits:
Original Date Of Course:

$179.00

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Course Description

Paralegals are a very important part of the law firm’s legal team and participate in almost all aspects of the provision of legal services to clients. Paralegals can perform multiple tasks and projects under the supervision of a licensed attorney. 

Paralegals are also on the front lines to manage the law office and prevent or mitigate potential ethics violations. 

This webinar will discuss the lawyer’s critical role in supervising paralegals and nonlawyer staff and identify crucial ethics issues and traps for the unwary along with tips and information to help prevent ethics issues from occurring or manage ethics issues when they occur. 

Syllabus

  • Client intake
    • Use a client intake form and run conflicts check before the potential client’s appointment/consultation.
    • Non-lawyer employees are permitted to conduct initial client interviews, but the practice is discouraged and limited to gathering facts.
    • Screen potential clients for potential conflict of interest at the beginning of the representation: Was client previously represented? If so, who and why did representation end? Watch out for unreasonable expectations and/or failure to listen.
  • Conflicts of interest
    • Rule 1.7 addresses the requirements for representation of multiple clients in a single matter.
    • To be valid, waivers of conflict of interest must be after full disclosure and “informed consent” in writing.
    • Avoid business transactions with clients (including loans), or acquiring an interest adverse to the client. This is a conflict of interest and is prohibited unless strict requirements are met.
    • Rule 1.13 Organization is the Client. Lawyer for an organization represents the organization acting through its constituents.
  • Client confidentiality
    • 1.6 Confidentiality of Information
    • 1.6(a) prohibits a lawyer from revealing information “relating to representation of a client” except as stated in subdivisions (b), (c), and (d), unless the client gives informed consent.
    • 1.6(b) requires disclosure of confidential information to prevent a client from committing a crime or to prevent a death or substantial bodily harm to another.
    • 1.6(c) permits disclosure to respond to Bar complaint, legal malpractice claim, or criminal allegation against lawyer).
    • Confidentiality and E-Filing.
    • Blogs and Client Confidentiality
  • Social media and ethics rules
    • Ethics opinions in Oregon (Op. 2013-189), Kentucky (Op. KBA E-434), New York State (Op. 843), and New York City (Op. 2010-2) conclude that lawyers are not permitted (either themselves or through agents) to engage in false or deceptive tactics to get around social media users’ privacy settings to reach non-public information.
    • Ethics opinions by the Philadelphia Bar Association (Op. 2009-02) and the San Diego County Bar Association (Op. 2011-2), among others, conclude that lawyers must affirmatively disclose their reasons for communicating with the third party.
    • Florida Bar Advisory Opinion 14-1 (June 25, 2015) states that a lawyer may advise client to use highest level of privacy setting on the client’s social media pages and may advise client to remove information from social media page prior to litigation, regardless of its relevance to a reasonably foreseeable proceeding, as long as removal does not violate substantive law regarding preservation and/or spoliation of evidence.
    • Ethics opinions in Oregon (Op. 2013-189), Kentucky (Op. KBA E-434), New York State (Op. 843), and New York City (Op. 2010-2) conclude that lawyers cannot (either themselves or through agents) to engage in false or deceptive tactics to get around a social media users’ privacy setting to reach non-public information.
    • Philadelphia Bar Association (Op. 2009-02) and the San Diego County Bar Association (Op. 2011-2), among others, conclude that lawyers must affirmatively disclose their reasons for communicating with the third party.
    • Robertelli v. The New Jersey Office of Attorney Ethics (A-62-14) (075584) (New Jersey Supreme Court 4/19/16), New Jersey lawyer found to have violated Bar Rules for improperly accessing an opposing party’s Facebook page.
  • Managing client matters and files
    • Create a file organization system
    • Checklists for managing case deadlines; pleadings index including communication records/logs; time entries/billing logs; discovery; research; misc.
    • Maintain your calendar; utilize to do lists and a tickle system for deadlines to complete file tasks; consider case management software options.
    • Communicate with client, promptly respond to telephone calls/e-mails/communications, and document the communications. Send important documents to the client.
    • Be careful what you say in e-mails. Do not assume that it will remain confidential.
    • Copy client with all relevant documents related to representation and provide periodic updates.
    • Conduct periodic file reviews to maintain progression of the files.
  • How to handle file closing and records management/retention
    • Create a procedure for file retention.
    • Withdrawal and Non-engagement/Disengagement Letters
    • Withdrawal/termination of representation
      • reasonable notice to the client and allow time for employment of other counsel,
      • surrender papers and property to which the client is entitled,
      • refund any advance payment of fee or expense that has not been earned or incurred.
      • Lawyer may retain papers and other property relating to or belonging to the client to the extent permitted by law.
  • Non-lawyers and ethics rules
    • Non-lawyers must comply with all Bar Rules and maintain client confidentiality as required by the lawyer under the Rules.
    • Non-lawyers not permitted to negotiate settlements.
    • Non-lawyers are prohibited from discussing and/or interpreting the terms of fee agreement with the client or prospective client.
    • Non-lawyers should explain to the client that he/she cannot provide legal opinions or provide legal advice.
    • Non-lawyers should explain to a prospective witness that he or she is not disinterested in the matter.
  • Ethical Fees and Fee Agreements
    • Have written fee agreement or engagement letter for every client/matter (or master fee agreement/engagement letter)
    • Fee agreement should:
      • identify the client(s), identify, and limit the parameters/scope of representation,
      • confirm responsibility for costs/expenses and frequency of billing,
      • provide for lawyer’s right to withdraw under certain circumstances.
      • Lawyer may withdraw due to client’s failure to meet financial obligations.
    • Written fee agreements are required if fee is contingent and set/flat/non-refundable fee should/must be confirmed in writing.
    • Fees must be reasonable and cannot be illegal, prohibited, or clearly excessive. Have procedures in place to follow up if fee agreement not timely executed.
    • Provide clients with detailed billing invoices with time entries on monthly basis and include balance of any retainer credit or cost deposit, or balance owed.

Instructor

Joseph Corsmeier, Esq.

Credit Details

Course Type

Course Instructor

Joseph Corsmeier, Esq.

Original Date Of Course

Ethics Credits

1.5