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IBA: A 'Safe Ask' is Just a Phone Call Away

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By Robert W. York, Robert W. York & Associates

york-robert.jpg York

On January 26, 2006, the then members of the Executive Committee of the Seniors Lawyers Division (later renamed the Senior Counsel Division): Justice Brent Dickson; Bob York; Bob Geddes; Phil Genetos; Ray Good and John Render, met for the Division’s organizational meeting and discussed the direction that should be taken to accomplish the directive from Indianapolis Bar Association President Judge Cynthia Ayers that the Division undertake a significant initiative for the advancement of the IndyBar, its members and the practice of law.

Following the addition of Judge Sarah Evans Barker and Judge Margret G. Robb to the Committee, discussion ensued over several months as to the development of a program which would provide a resource for members of the IndyBar to obtain guidance and information from experienced attorneys intended to assist them in providing quality and ethical legal services to their clients.

At the recommendation of Judge Barker, the Committee determined that the nomenclature, “Safe Ask,” would properly describe the program’s purpose and would encourage potential users to believe that they could be safe in asking questions that would aid them and their clients.

With respect to the implementation of the program, the Committee determined that:

For conflicts check purposes – the responder should first determine whether the inquiry involves a matter in which the responder is involved.
ask-factbox.gif It was important to receive a safe question. For example, because the provisions of Rule 8.3 of the Rules of Professional Conduct require the reporting of a known violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct, the inquirer should be informed to frame their inquiry accordingly.

Responders should avoid the temptation to try to “solve” the inquirer’s case and instead should provide their best advice while reminding the inquirer that: since the practice of law is an art, there is usually no one “best” method to resolve a legal issue; that the advice given should be considered as a recommended approach and not as a guarantee that it will obtain the desired results; and, that the inquirer should exercise his or her independent judgment in deciding upon their course of action.

In the event the responder is unable to frame a proper response, the inquirer should be referred to another source, such as the Indiana State Bar Association Ethics Committee, which has been designated by the Supreme Court to provide advice on ethics issues.

The Safe Ask program should be made available to all IndyBar members and should utilize the IndyBar’s Website at www.indybar.org. A member wanting a response to a question may access the “Member Benefits” section of the site and then send an email by using the “Safe Ask” section of the site. Depending upon the nature of the question and the member’s indication, the question will be answered confidentially by email or telephone, or, if the question does not require confidentiality, will be forwarded to the Safe Ask Panel for responses as they choose.

The disclaimer approved by the Committee should be posted on the website.

Members of the initial Safe Ask Panel were: Robert W. York, Robert W. York & Associates; John C. Render, Hall Render Killian Heath & Lyman; Ronald L. Dyer, Elder Law Attorney; Terrill D. Albright, Baker & Daniels; Donald L. Centers, Hannon, Hutton & Associates; Robert W. Geddes, Hume Smith Geddes Green & Simmons; Philip C. Genetos, Ice Miller; Raymond Good, Lewis & Kappes; John Q. Herrin, Drewry Simmons Vornehm; Paul F. Kortepeter, Sommer & Barnard; and, Michael J. Rusnak, Harrison & Moberly.

In the intervening years, panel members have responded to a broad array of questions involving procedural, discovery and evidentiary issues as well as conflicts with a court, with clients, with opposing counsel and within a law firm.

The Safe Ask program has been and will continue to be a valuable resource for IndyBar members and all are encouraged to contact any of the current panel members listed on the IndyBar’s website, knowing in advance that they can safely ask any question.•

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