Late last month, I focused a post on a West Virginia lawyer who ended up staring down a 2-year suspension over chronic over-billing. If you missed that post, you can read it here. If you read it, you will recall that one of the items discussed was that the Executive Director of the West Virginia Public Defender Services agency had indicated that particular lawyer was not even among the worst offenders.
The ABA Journal online has a piece up that is apparently about one such even worse offender who has skipped out on bail regarding the criminal charges he is facing over his rampant over-billing (including billing more than 24 hours on 17 different days) and is suspected to be a fugitive in a much more temperate part of the world than West Virginia.
Over a larger time period and with a bit more frequency, I’ve written a little bit about the ABA Ethics 20/20 revisions to the Model Rules — admittedly through the lens that those revisions were being considered and then adopted here in my home state of Tennessee. If you’ve been looking for a really good window into what the technology-focused aspects of the Ethics 20/20 revisions mean for your law practice, you are in luck because the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility has now put out Formal Ethics Op. 477 which pretty much provides exactly that.
It is a good opinion – it’s getting a lot of attention in the legal media for establishing new standards but that’s not quite right. It doesn’t really establish anything new but it does do a really good job of focusing lawyers’ attention upon the logical repercussions of the Ethics 20/20 revisions and the risks that lawyers need to be acutely aware of when communicating with clients.
It is also worth noting — particularly given the last few days of ransom ware news (and one other high-profile instance of information that was promised to be kept secret being disseminated under questionable circumstances) that user error continues to be a leading cause of unintended disclosure of (or complete loss of access to) confidential information whether technology is involved or not.
It should go without saying that there is only so much a lawyer can do to try to guard against those kinds of risks.