Ethics Traps

ETHICS TRAPS FOR CALIFORNIA ATTORNEYS

Duties to Nonclients:

California attorneys can have fiduciary duties to prospective clients, opposing parties, witnesses, or heirs of your clients. If a third party pays the bill, duties to the client and the payor can be complex.

Fee Agreements:

Do you know when your lien must comply with the business transaction rules? Do you know what special clauses are required when your fees are partially contingent and partially hourly.

Joint Clients:

Many lawyers and judges assume that all multiple client relationships have automatic conflicts of interest. When there is no conflict of interest, a conflict consent may create liability when none truly exists. But when there is no conflict, it is advisable to have a written consent to joint representation.

Immigration Lawyers

Both the EOIR and the USCIS have their own Rules of Professional Conduct. We have seen an uptick in the disciplinary inquiries from both agencies. When you go to Federal Court, remember that each District Court requires a separate admission – your State Court admission does not cover Federal Courts

Lateral Transfers

Attorneys from other states may be engaged in UPL - Unauthorized Practice of Law - while applying for a California license. Your law firm website has to be altered. Your normal ways of practicing law have to be adjusted from the time to move your practice to California until such time as you are actually admitted.

House Counsel:

When you move to California to take a job in a house counsel department, you are practicing law in California. If you don’t comply with the Rules regarding Registered In House Counsel, you are breaking the law both in California and your home state.

Law Firm Changes

When you move from one firm to another, or add a partner, or start planning for retirement, the business and ethics issues overlap in a very complicated way.

Disability Access cases

The spike in access claims against small businesses has resulted in changes in the laws governing claims by disabled people. Attorneys who represent plaintiffs now have a series of steps that must be taken before suit is filed; there is even a Judicial Council form.

Federal Court Admission

Each District Court requires a separate admission. The same goes for US Courts of Appeal and the US Supreme Court.

The Law Changes Daily

There are over one hundred appellate court rulings every year which govern the work of California lawyers. We read the State Bar Court Reporter, the published decisions of the California Courts of Appeals, and the California Supreme Court. See our What’s New Page

We also follow Federal cases that affect the practice of attorneys in California. The actions of attorneys can also be affected by published decisions of bankruptcy courts, Tax Court, and United State regulatory agencies. We make it our job to know the latest rulings, so we can get you the most up-to-date information possible.