Recently, you heard of a lawyer friend who received an ethics complaint. You do not know all the details, but you know you want to avoid something similar happening to you.
The American Bar Association breaks down common blunders that lead to complaints. Learn how to stay out of trouble while helping your clients.
Think twice before notarizing a client’s signature or signing a client’s name. Without the client physically present when you notarize or sign a document, you risk committing an ethics violation.
Going into business with old clients
How do you handle investing opportunities with current clients? Hopefully, you obtain express consent and suggest the person seek independent legal insight. The same applies to investment opportunities with clients you used to work with.
Issues with trust accounts
Make sure that settlement check funds deposited into a trust account clear before cutting your client a check. You risk a disciplinary report if the check does not clear. You should also avoid depositing your own money into a trust account or neglecting to deposit client funds altogether.
Overlooking fee-sharing arrangement discussions
If you and another legal practitioner from a different law firm collaborate on a single case, you must share that with the client. Specifically, explain your fee-sharing agreement and the other lawyer’s level of involvement with the case. Secure the client’s approval of the situation before continuing.
Poor client communication
Prioritize regular check-ins and communication with clients, even when you do not have case developments to share. Return phone calls, send termination letters and include written fee arrangements in your contracts.
Stay compliant and up-to-date on legal ethics matters. Proper education helps you avoid unnecessary complaints.