Dyan Williams Law advises Minnesota solo and small firm lawyers on how to avoid ethics pitfalls and respond to ethics investigations and complaints.
The practice of law is governed by state ethics rules that are not always clear-cut. Lawyers who are found to violate ethics rules face discipline ranging from private reprimand to disbarment.
We advise you on the most common ethics traps related to competence, diligence, client communication, conflicts of interests, advertising, and fee agreements.
Prevention is key
A rule violation doesn’t necessarily mean the attorney is corrupt or unethical. Many rule violations are unintentional mistakes.
Sometimes they result from thinking you know more about legal ethics than you really do, making bad judgment calls, letting your emotions override your objectivity, having an overwhelming workload, and being hampered by personal problems.
We help you avoid falling into ethics traps through:
1. Training and education
Lawyers may assume they know the answer to complex legal ethics questions and make irreversible mistakes as a result. When it comes to legal ethics, the answer is not always intuitive.
We train and educate you on ethics issues – such as client communication, competence, diligence, and fees — before they become a problem. We can work with you individually or in a team setting.
2. Implementing systems
Solo lawyers and small law firm lawyers are uniquely vulnerable to ethics violations. In addition to lawyering, they need to run their business, lead their staff, and market the firm. Multiple responsibilities can cause things to fall through the cracks and lead to ill-advised shortcuts.
Getting organized and implementing client service protocols and case management procedures are critical. Having the right reminder tools and calendaring system keeps you from missing deadlines and hearings.
We help you set up systems, processes and procedures to avoid ethical pitfalls and resolve ethical dilemmas.
We guide you in creating employee training and case management manuals, documenting your office procedures and processes, and preparing checklists and templates for repeatable steps in your client matters. These tools allow you to complete things more quickly, without sacrificing quality.
Proper response is critical
Ethics grievances, investigations and complaints often trigger fear, anger, defensiveness, and other strong emotions in lawyers. Your failing to seek or follow advice of counsel can lead to angry and defensive tirades in your response.
1. Acting as a sounding board
We serve as your confidante, sounding board, and advisor in responding to ethics grievances, investigations and complaints. We counsel you on how to provide a calm, concise, and factually-based response to a Notice of Investigation (NOI) from the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility (OLPR).
2. Providing a full, factual and well-documented response
We help you draft your response from scratch, using information and documents that you provide to us. We can also review the response that you create to ensure that you stick to the facts, use the appropriate tone, and avoid name calling and disclosing immaterial client confidences.
A complete and precise response, with supporting documents, can help you get the complaint dismissed or avoid disciplinary charges that may lead to public sanctions ranging from a public reprimand to disbarment.