Risk Update

Law Firm Ethics — Professional Rules and Standards to Watch in 2020

Lexis offers: “Legal Ethics Rules To Watch In 2020” —

  • “There is plenty happening in the world of lawyer regulation and ethics, from California’s radical access-to-justice initiative to the New York City bar’s look at litigation funding and the fee-splitting rule.”
  • “Depending on your point of view, the Golden State’s ongoing ethics rule revamp is either a welcome evolution that will improve access to the justice system, or a misguided invitation for non-lawyers to provide low-quality legal services and undercut ethical standards. Either way, keep a close eye this year on California, where a bar task force is set to finalize a sweeping proposal aimed at reducing costs for consumers and making the justice system more accessible.”
  • “Some 18 months ago, the venerable New York City Bar Association hit private legal investors — and a growing number of firms who use their money — with a broadside warning that funding deals in which the attorney’s repayments are tied directly to future fees or contingencies violate the fee-sharing ban under Rule 5.4. The advisory opinion was a direct challenge to so-called portfolio arrangements in which funders put up money to a firm to back a group of cases in return for a share of future profits.”
  • “In Missouri, a state appeals court is expected to decide whether state prosecutors have the authority to help undo wrongful convictions in a case touching on state and national professional standards. The case involves Lamar Johnson, who was sentenced a quarter century ago to life in prison, without the possibility of parole, for a fatal shooting. Last summer, a conviction integrity unit of the St. Louis prosecutor’s office issued a scathing report about a litany of underlying police and prosecutorial misconduct in the Johnson case. That report described fabricated witness statements, secret payments made by prosecutors to a lone eyewitness and the presentation of false evidence to jurors that ‘rendered the result of the trial fundamentally unfair.'”
  • “Considering the testiness of lawyer rule-making, the ABA’s revamp two years ago of attorney advertising regulations went off pretty smoothly… But since the ABA “black letter” changes were finalized, only Connecticut has actually adopted the newly streamlined rules, though two others — Virginia and Oregon — made related updates amid the run-up to the ABA updates. Was all that effort wasted? Maybe not. The high courts in Washington and Iowa are considering ad rule adoptions, while the bars in a handful of other states, including Colorado, Louisiana and Tennessee, are also considering revisions, according to the ABA.”