Ethics Question of the Month

Ethics Question of the Month - November 2018

Scenario 1.  Criminal defense lawyer X agrees to represent Client A in a DWI.  The fee agreement requires a $5,000 nonrefundable retainer that covers all legal services up to trial.  If a trial is required, the agreement provides for a nonrefundable “trial fee” of $10,000.  Client A pays the first $5,000 fee but is unable to pay the $10,000 when it becomes clear that a trial will be necessary.   Lawyer X withdraws from the representation.

Scenario 2.  Criminal defense lawyer Y agrees to represent Client B on an assault charge.  The fee agreement provides for a nonrefundable flat fee of $20,000 for the entire representation, including trial.  Client B becomes dissatisfied and terminates Lawyer Y just before trial.   Client demands a partial refund in order to hire another lawyer for trial.  Lawyer Y refuses any refund because the $20,000 flat fee was expressly “nonrefundable.”

Scenario 3.  Criminal defense lawyer Z agrees to represent Client C on a felony theft charge.  The fee agreement provides for multiple fees: $2500 nonrefundable retainer upfront; $5000 flat fee for services before trial; and then an hourly fee of $350 during and after trial, up to final judgment.

Which fee arrangements are ethical?

A.    All three fee arrangements are ethical.  
B.    Lawyer X’s fee agreement is ethical, but the other two are not.
C.      Lawyer X’s and Lawyer Y’s fee agreements are ethical, but Lawyer Z’s is not.  
D.    Lawyer Z’s fee agreement is ethical, but the other two are not.
 

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Posted: 10/29/2018 12:00:00 AM by TCLE Editor | with 0 comments

Ethics Question of the Month - October 2018

A law firm’s website advertises the services of a commercial litigator in the firm. The website touts the lawyer’s past successes, including:

1.    “Won a $2.1 million jury verdict for the plaintiff in a case involving a partnership dispute.”
2.    “Obtained an $8 million settlement in a case between two companies in which the plaintiff company made fraud claims.”
3.    “Negotiated a $450,000 net recovery in a contract dispute in arbitration.”
4.    “Obtained a permanent injunction against a former employee under a non-compete agreement.”
5.    “Served as local counsel in an appeal in which a $5 million tortious interference judgment was affirmed.”
6.    “Obtained a defense jury verdict of no liability in a case alleging $15 million in damages.”

Which of these descriptions of past successes is proper under the Texas lawyer advertising rules?

A.    #1, #5 and #6 are proper, but the rest are improper.
B.    #3 and #4 are proper, but the rest are improper 
C.    #4 is proper, but the rest are improper.
D.    #2 and #4 are proper, but the rest are improper.
 

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Posted: 9/29/2018 12:00:00 AM by TCLE Editor | with 0 comments

Ethics Question of the Month - September 2018

Law firm Abel, Baker, Caldwell & Dodd (“ABC&D”) has four name partners.  Partner Abel decides to retire from practicing law and leaves the firm.  Baker decides to leave the firm to open a solo practice under his own name. 

The remaining partners wish to continue to practice under the same firm name because it is well known in the community.  Abel and Baker both agree to allow ABC&D to continue to use their names in exchange for payment. 

Three years later, Abel decides he’s tired of retirement and opens a solo practice under his own name.  Under the current Ethics Opinions issued by the Professional Ethics Committee for the State Bar of Texas, which of the following is accurate?

  1. ABC&D may continue with the same name even though Abel and Baker are practicing elsewhere and no longer have any association with the firm
  2. ABC&D may continue to use Abel’s name, but not Baker’s
  3. ABC&D may continue to use Baker’s name, but not Abel’s 
  4. ABC&D may not use either Abel’s name or Baker’s name 

 

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Posted: 8/30/2018 2:25:14 PM by TCLE Editor | with 0 comments

About Ethics Question of the Month

Ethics Question of the Month is a regular feature of the Texas Bar Journal created and sponsored by the Texas Center for Legal Ethics.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in Ethics Question of the Month is intended to illustrate an ethics issue of general interest in the Texas legal community; it is not intended to provide ethics advice that applies regardless of particular facts.  For specific legal ethics advice, readers are urged to consult the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct (including their official comments) and other authorities and/or a qualified legal ethics advisor.

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