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Social networking among Indiana State Bar meeting topics

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Lawyers are trained not to air their clients’ dirty laundry, but an attorney defending a murder suspect posted photos of her client’s leopard-print underwear on her personal Facebook page. A mistrial and the lawyer’s termination followed, the Miami Herald reported last month.

Perhaps she could have benefited from the social media and ethics presentation at the Indiana State Bar Association annual meeting, one of an array of programs Oct. 25 and 26. The Florida lawyer’s indiscretion is an extreme case, but it’s not unique in an atmosphere where not just sharing, but oversharing, is sometimes the expectation.

“It’s kind of the culture of social media that is directed at disclosure and openness, not guardedness, and there’s also sort of a seductiveness about it,” said Don Lundberg, a partner with Barnes & Thornburg LLP. “But there are confidentiality obligations to clients that are really quite sweeping and almost the very nature of social media is contrary to the obligations lawyers have to maintain all information confidentially.”

Lundberg Don Lundberg

Richmond private practitioner Amy Noe will join Lundberg in presenting the ethics portion of a two-hour CLE Oct. 25 called “Finding the Borders: Advertising in Multiple Jurisdictions or by Social Network.” Noe calls herself an avid social media networker; Lundberg said he seldom uses any.

“There are cases that come up where folks do not recognize that what you’re putting out there is not necessarily private,” Noe said, even on pages where a user thinks she might be controlling access. “You can control who sees your stuff,” she said, “but you can’t control who shares your stuff.”

Noe said even seemingly innocuous comments shared online could have unintended consequences. Posting something such as “I can’t believe the crazy thing that happened in court today,” she said, could cross a line.

“You just never know if someone who sees that is going to be able to piece it together,” Noe said. But attorneys don’t lose their voice entirely where social media is concerned. “For the most part, there’s a line between talking about cases and talking about the practice,” she added.

Lundberg said the forum should be beneficial for attorneys who use social networking, even though the lines aren’t always clear.

“It could be and probably is the best course to treat it as a bright line – what happens in the office stays in the office,” Lundberg said. “But lawyers are not robots.”

The question of when social networking crosses the line into advertising, as well as advertising in multiple jurisdictions, will precede Lundberg and Noe’s presentation.

Lawrenceburg private practitioner David Lynch will join Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission General Counsel Charles Kidd for that presentation.

noe Noe

Kidd said the presentation will look particularly at media markets such as Chicago, Cincinnati and Louisville that cross state lines.

“What we know is that certainly there are different approaches to advertising in the surrounding states,” he said. “Our goal really is to highlight those differences.”

Media mentoring

How a lawyer responds to a press interview can make an impression. John Tompkins, a founder of Brown Tompkins Lory & Mastrian in Indianapolis, will advise attendees on making the impression they desire.

Tompkins will put himself under the media spotlight. He’ll be interviewed by WISH-TV political reporter Jim Shella in a role-playing scenario that participants will critique in “Tips from the Trenches: Media Training & Public Access Laws,” a two-hour CLE Oct. 25. John Krull, director of the Pulliam School of Journalism at Franklin College, also will speak.

Tompkins said participants will also have a chance to hear from Shella about how he prepares for and approaches interviews. And while Tompkins will talk about the rules of professional conduct that govern pre-trial publicity and attorney interaction with the press, he will also focus on technique.

Charles Kidd Kidd

“I think attorneys commonly assume their audience is other attorneys,” he said. “We really need to be conscious of our audience.”

The presentation will be helpful, Tompkins said, for any attorneys who have dealings with the press. These days, that’s increasingly common. “It’s a very timely subject. There’s a lot more media coverage, for various reasons, of legal matters,” he said.

The session will feature a separate component on public access laws with speakers Séamus Boyce of Church Church Hittle & Antrim in Noblesville, Indiana Public Access Counselor Joe Hoage and Indiana Department of Education Chief of Staff Heather Neal.

meeting-facts.jpgNo more billable hours?

Mark Chinn is out to kill the billable hour, and he says whether attorneys realize it or not, it’s going the way of the Rolodex.

The Jackson, Miss., family law private practitioner is the author of “Dumping the Billable Hour” and is the key speaker during a three-hour CLE alternative fee summit on Oct. 25. Participants will use the information to develop best practices for alternative billing by practice area.

chinn Chinn

“It’s in much greater use than anybody realizes, I think,” Chinn said of alternative fee structures that move away from billable hours. Yet there is entrenched resistance.

“I would say the vast majority of smaller firms can’t even think of anything other than the billable hour,” he said. “How do you pay associates when you’re not judging by the amount of hours they spend, but by the amount of value they bring in. … It’s a new mindset.”

In his practice, Chinn tells clients up front what the maximum fee will be for his services, and then typically offers three options based on what can be achieved, what the client expects, and the client’s resources. If a case appears likely to settle, for instance, he may advise a client to pursue the least expensive option, but a client would still know what the fee cap would be in any circumstance.

The arrangement gives a client certainty, and it also focuses the attorney, Chinn said. “It puts pressure on the lawyer at the very beginning to very clearly define the scope of the work.”

Altman Weil’s 2012 Law Firms in Transition survey found alternative fees on the rise: 94.5 percent of firms used some form of non-hourly billing. But Chinn also saw a disconnect in the numbers. At firms of more than 1,000 attorneys, 80 percent expected alternative fee arrangements will be adopted as a standard. At firms of fewer than 100 lawyers, the number declined to 70 percent.•

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  • google plus one
    speaking of which, it would be cool if these articles had google plus one widgets on them.

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  1. Do I have to hire an attorney to get co-guardianship of my brother? My father has guardianship and my older sister was his co-guardian until this Dec 2014 when she passed and my father was me to go on as the co-guardian, but funds are limit and we need to get this process taken care of quickly as our fathers health isn't the greatest. So please advise me if there is anyway to do this our self or if it requires a lawyer? Thank you

  2. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  3. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  4. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  5. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

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