Happy New Year; New Rules; Be Honest; Tell Your Friends

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION.

I wish you and your staff a Happy New Year. If you read this blog I know you also read other blogs, and many of them have offered resolution suggestions for the new year. Here is mine.

I was at a closing last week and the seller asked if I had set any resolutions for 2013. My reply was “Work hard, and keep out of trouble.” Thinking about that later, I need to revise that first one to “Work smarter.” I have reached the age where working harder is not going to do it any longer. And the issues my clients have are not solved by working harder, so I must continue to work smarter.

Good luck to you and your clients, the kind of luck that comes from working smarter.

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NEW RULES (redux)

In the last post I suggested that we all read the new rules issued for 2013. Just in case you got too wrapped up in parties, parades and football, I thought I would remind you to take a look. Stay on top and be ready.  Your judge might be expecting that from you. Your client’s new lawyer will if pursuing a malpractice claim, for any reason.

Don’t forget the new Parenting Time Guideline changes go into effect on March 1, 2013 as well.

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BE HONEST AND EXPLAIN THE REAL BASIS FOR YOUR FEE

Finally a story out of Cincinnati. Kathleen Mezher offered a free consultation to  potential clients coming to her law office. Lots of lawyers do this. But do they follow her improper practice of billing for that time if the client signs up? Do they explain the fees kick in when the client signs up? Do you?

In this case, a potential client came in to discuss her mother’s estate. The meeting was advertised as a free consultation. The potential client showed up, discussed the proceedings with the associate lawyer Espohl and agreed to hire the firm. She then talked in more particulars about the estate proceedings, left some important papers and then waited. Three weeks later the client decided to go someplace else and asked for the papers to be returned. The client got her papers, and a bill for $375, of which $250 was charged for the “Attorney Client consultation” that had been identified as a freebie.

The event was called the “failure to communicate the basis of a fee and misleading communication about a fee” by the Ohio Supreme Court, violating Rules 1.5(b) and 7.1. Mezher and her associate Espohl both got public reprimands for their actions. The court opinion speaks in detail about the need to communicate to the client if a free consultation can turn into a client interview for which payment is required. Here the lawyers did not have a good policy for that change in circumstances, or adequately explain that policy to the clients.

Well worth the read, especially if you offer free consultations. 

Query: If your first engagement is a free consultation, then you start to charge a fee for that meeting, is that a change in fee arrangements that also requires a Rule 1.8 warning under Indiana’s more strict view?  What would the Disc. Comm. think? Do you want to be the test case?

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TELL YOUR FRIENDS

If you enjoy the information you get in this blog, please tell your friends, or better yet forward to you friends, the blog that is about those who might be Lawyers With Troubles. Maybe it will help a fellow lawyer avoid a problem.  They can go to the site www.lawyerswithtroubles.wordpress.com and sign up.

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