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How dangerous is a conflict of interests?

As an attorney, facing accusations of having a conflict of interests may fill you with concern. After all, a conflict of interest may complicate your case to the extent that a court may question or even overturn the outcome. In some circumstances, a conflict of interest can cloud your reputation as a lawyer or even result in disciplinary action.

However, it is important to understand the complexity of such conflicts. In fact, even a conflict that may seem inexcusable, such as having a romantic relationship with a client, may not necessarily prevent you from effectively representing that client.

How do you avoid fee disputes with your clients?

What do you do about a disgruntled client who doesn't want to pay the legal bill he or she has racked up?

Tread carefully. Rightly or wrongly, a fee dispute can open the doorway to a complaint about your professionalism or allegations of malpractice. Once the state bar gets involved, you may spend more time and energy defending yourself than the original bill was worth -- and the resulting increase in your liability insurance premiums can also be a burden.

Teacher misconduct: What it means

There's nothing that makes news faster than allegations of misconduct by a teacher -- especially when it directly involves a child in some way. Once an allegation is made, it can ruin your reputation and standing in your community for years to come.

What exactly is professional misconduct for a teacher? Most states leave a broad definition open in order to capture anything that hasn't been specifically imagined, but misconduct includes:

  • Being caught drunk driving or causing an accident while drunk
  • Being caught buying, selling, transporting any kind of illicit drugs
  • Being caught doctor shopping, forging a prescription or otherwise misusing prescription drugs
  • Misusing school property or money that was entrusted to the teacher as part of a school function, club or other activity
  • Committing any kind of illegal activity on school property or during a school event (like physically fighting or assaulting someone)
  • Abusing a child physically or mentally or allowing the abuse to happen without trying to intervene or reporting it
  • Failing to report suspected abuse of a child

A DUI can put your 'moral character' in question with the Bar

A few drinks at a bar may seem like the perfect way to unwind -- but don't let those drinks turn into a charge of driving under the influence (DUI) on the way home. If you're an attorney (or a student hoping to soon practice law), a DUI can pose a significant threat to your career.

The California Bar and moral character determinations

Doctor who gave marijuana to preschooler fights for his license

A California doctor prescribed cannabis cookies to a 4-year-old. Now, he's lost his license to practice -- but not why you probably think.

The Hollywood physician was consulted in 2012 by the 4-year-old boy's father, who was already one of the doctor's medical marijuana patients. The father was concerned because the preschooler had trouble sitting still in school and was having tantrums -- behavior which the school said was unacceptable.

Are you accused of breaching your client's confidentiality?

As an attorney, you often hear the things about your clients that you wouldn't ever want to repeat. People often come to lawyers at the worst times in their lives, and they need to be honest with you.

One of the most important parts of your job as an attorney is to keep your client's information confidential. The attorney-client privilege is vital to your ability to do your job, since you need those you serve to trust that they can give you the information you need in order to properly represent them.

Be cautious about using distance education to obtain a degree

These days, an education can be no further away than your fingertips, thanks to the proliferation of online schools. But, if you sign up for an online school to get your master's degree in Education or some other degree, will you get what you pay for?

Online schools are useful to many professionals -- especially those who seek to meet the ongoing-education requirements for their professional licenses. It's easy to fit an online school into an already-hectic life without much disruption. Online classes are also often cheaper than the ones you find in brick-and-mortar schools.

Santa Clara attorney suspended over billing issues

A Santa Clara attorney was recently suspended by the State Bar of California over improper billing procedures. The suspension will last a year, followed by a three-year period of probation.

While that seems harsh, it's still a better outcome than might have been expected. The State Bar didn't pursue harsher action -- like disbarment -- because it was the attorney's first offense, and he cooperated and accepted responsibility for his misconduct.

Worried about the California Bar's moral character application?

All of the rigors of laws school can seem minor when it comes time to apply to the California Bar for your license to actually practice -- especially if there are some mistakes in your past that are weighing heavily on your mind.

It's not too early to start thinking about the process. It takes about six months to get through the moral character determination -- if everything goes smoothly. An approval is far from guaranteed. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Legal marijuana and your medical license

Here's a question that may or may not be haunting you: Now that recreational marijuana is as legal as alcohol in California, can you smoke it and keep your medical license?

Luckily for you, the California Medical Board has been pretty clear about the issue. Physicians and other medical providers are permitted to smoke marijuana and use other legal cannabis products so long as they aren't impaired by its effects when they see patients.

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Law Office of Zachary D. Wechsler

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Torrance, CA 90503

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