Ethics & Professional Responsibility

If you’re already admitted to practice in Arizona, thank your lucky stars because taking the July bar exam this year will be, like almost everything else during this pandemic, different. Remember how stressed you were when you took the bar exam? Now add a face mask or shield, health screening, and social distancing to normal bar-exam stress and imagine that level of inner turmoil. If Arizona’s July bar exam – which is still planned – follows recent history, more than 500 people will take it, in person, at the Phoenix Convention Center. But that’s where normal stops this year. Arizona…
One of the rule-change petitions filed this year asks the Arizona Supreme Court to amend Rule 28, which is its own rule about rule-change petitions. R-20-0022 proposes requiring that the Court explain its actions on rule-change petitions and disclose how each justice voted. So, it’s a rule-change petition about rule-change petitions. Mauricio R. Hernandez filed the petition asking for the change “to support longstanding state policy favoring open government and an informed Arizona citizenry and to heighten accountability through augmented transparency.” [Petition at 1] The petition points to the Nevada Supreme Court as an example of a jurisdiction that does this, and…
Your new personal-injury client – the one who fired their previous lawyer without cause and then hired you – comes with baggage that the American Bar Association says you, as successor counsel, must carry. The ABA’s most recent opinion, Op. 487,  interprets the Model Rules of Professional Conduct as imposing a myriad of obligations on the successor counsel, including that successor counsel must: Disclose to the client, in writing and preferably in the fee agreement, that the client’s previous lawyer has a potential claim on any recovery; Discuss with the client whether the successor counsel will help the client…
Your new personal-injury client – the one who fired their previous lawyer without cause and then hired you – comes with baggage that the American Bar Association says you, as successor counsel, must carry. The ABA’s most recent opinion, Op. 487,  interprets the Model Rules of Professional Conduct as imposing a myriad of obligations on the successor counsel, including that successor counsel must: Disclose to the client, in writing and preferably in the fee agreement, that the client’s previous lawyer has a potential claim on any recovery; Discuss with the client whether the successor counsel will help the client…
A new Arizona Supreme Court rule that is far more important for Arizona’s legal profession than it may seem took effect yesterday. As a result of new Rule 42.1, Ariz. R. Sup. Ct., the Supreme Court, which by the Arizona Constitution is in charge of regulating the practice of law, will directly control another piece of the system of governing Arizona lawyers. This, after revamping the discipline system effective in 2011 in many ways, including removing the probable-cause function from State Bar of Arizona control and relocating it to a court-appointed committee that acts like the grand jury in…
A new Arizona Supreme Court rule that is far more important for Arizona’s legal profession than it may seem took effect yesterday. As a result of new Rule 42.1, Ariz. R. Sup. Ct., the Supreme Court, which by the Arizona Constitution is in charge of regulating the practice of law, will directly control another piece of the system of governing Arizona lawyers. This, after revamping the discipline system effective in 2011 in many ways, including removing the probable-cause function from State Bar of Arizona control and relocating it to a court-appointed committee that acts like the grand jury in…
A threat is leverage you could use to get what you want. Dictionary.com puts a slightly discordant, even evil ring on the word: 1.    a declaration of an intention or determination to inflict punishment, injury, etc., in retaliation for, or conditionally upon, some action or course; menace: He confessed under the threat of imprisonment. 2.    an indication or warning of probable trouble: The threat of a storm was in the air. 3.    a person or thing that threatens. It’s easy to take an ultra-cautious – paranoid? — approach and advise that lawyers should never threaten anyone for any reason. But…
A threat is leverage you could use to get what you want. Dictionary.com puts a slightly discordant, even evil ring on the word: 1.    a declaration of an intention or determination to inflict punishment, injury, etc., in retaliation for, or conditionally upon, some action or course; menace: He confessed under the threat of imprisonment. 2.    an indication or warning of probable trouble: The threat of a storm was in the air. 3.    a person or thing that threatens. It’s easy to take an ultra-cautious – paranoid? — approach and advise that lawyers should never threaten anyone for any reason. But…
Even if you don’t agree with its rulings, you gotta hand it to our current Arizona Supreme Court for generally producing clear, well-written and succinct opinions. (I hope the fractured, SCOTUS-esq State v. Jean was an anomaly.) I can think of several opinions off the top of my head from other decades that still perplex me. (Did anyone else have a problem with Markowitz v. Arizona Parks Board? No? Maybe it was just me.) I’m a big fan of clarity. Don’t make me guess the import or holding of an opinion. Obtuseness helps no one and muddies the water. Disavowing prior cases? Tell…
Should Arizona adopt the controversial “anti-bias” rule that is now part of the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct? As a lawyer whose practice focuses on professional responsibility (and who knows a thing or two about legal ethics), I think we should. As a lawyer who happens to be a woman – who has seen bias and prejudice in action in the legal profession – I think we should. Regardless whether you agree with me, you should review rule-change petition R-17-0032, which proposes that Arizona adopt the new Model Rule 8.4 provision. Comments on the petition are due…
Should Arizona adopt the controversial “anti-bias” rule that is now part of the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct? As a lawyer whose practice focuses on professional responsibility (and who knows a thing or two about legal ethics), I think we should. As a lawyer who happens to be a woman – who has seen bias and prejudice in action in the legal profession – I think we should. Regardless whether you agree with me, you should review rule-change petition R-17-0032, which proposes that Arizona adopt the new Model Rule 8.4 provision. Comments on the petition are due…
Every so often, a court decision or ethics opinion comes along and I think, “Yes, we absolutely needed that.” The American Bar Association issued such an ethics opinion this week. ABA Op. 480 doesn’t break new ground but instead drives home the point that – even in this age of social media and socially acceptable oversharing – ABA Model Rule 1.6 means exactly what it says. Here’s the conclusion from Op. 480: Lawyers who blog or engage in other public commentary may not reveal information relating to a representation that is protected by Rule 1.6(a), including information contained in a public record, unless…
Every so often, a court decision or ethics opinion comes along and I think, “Yes, we absolutely needed that.” The American Bar Association issued such an ethics opinion this week. ABA Op. 480 doesn’t break new ground but instead drives home the point that – even in this age of social media and socially acceptable oversharing – ABA Model Rule 1.6 means exactly what it says. Here’s the conclusion from Op. 480: Lawyers who blog or engage in other public commentary may not reveal information relating to a representation that is protected by Rule 1.6(a), including information contained in a…
Legal Ethics Blog Contingency Fees in Arizona: Paper is Worth its Weight in Gold February 28, 2018 Practice Area: Legal Ethics Attention Arizona attorneys: to receive compensation for your contingent fee work, make sure your fee agreement is in writing and signed by the client – or, you might not get paid at all. This is the message from the Arizona Court of Appeals, announced through Levine v. Haralson, Miller, Pitt, Feldman & McAnally, P.L.C., 2018 WL 543052 (Ariz. Ct. App. 2018). The Levine case involved a dispute over attorneys’ fees between the law firm Haralson, Miller, Pitt, Feldman & McAnally, P.L.C. (“Haralson”)…
If you’re an Arizona lawyer and you represent clients in the medical-marijuana industry — or you take medical marijuana yourself — these recent headlines should have caught your attention: Trump Administration Takes Step That Could Threaten Marijuana Legalization Movement New US pot rule sparks latest clash over states’ rights Prosecutors in pot-friendly states will decide on crackdown Because, if you’re an Arizona lawyer, and you represent clients in the medical-marijuana industry —  or you take medical marijuana yourself — you already should know the inherent ethical and legal problems. Let’s review: We have a state law authorizing medical marijuana. Other…
If you’re an Arizona lawyer and you represent clients in the medical-marijuana industry — or you take medical marijuana yourself — these recent headlines should have caught your attention: Trump Administration Takes Step That Could Threaten Marijuana Legalization Movement New US pot rule sparks latest clash over states’ rights Prosecutors in pot-friendly states will decide on crackdown Because, if you’re an Arizona lawyer, and you represent clients in the medical-marijuana industry —  or you take medical marijuana yourself — you already should know the inherent ethical and legal problems. Let’s review: We have a state law authorizing medical marijuana. Other states…