Loading

Attorney E-Newsletter

May 2012

Registration Process Underway

Registration forms for 2012-2013 have been mailed, and the form is also available for download at www.padb.us. Online registration is also open at this address. There is a convenience fee of $2.75 for online registration. This is charged by the bank handling the transaction, not by the Disciplinary Board.[1] Registration forms and fees are due by July 1, 2012.

Late fees have been published here. At the time the final notices are transmitted by ordinary mail to an attorney who fails to timely file an annual registration form and pay the fee, the late payment penalty will be $100. After 30 days, the names of every attorney who has failed to respond to the notice will be certified to the Supreme Court, and the late payment penalty will be increased to $200.

A listing of financial institutions approved as depositories for fiduciary accounts is posted here. The list is also enclosed with your registration package.

There is a collection fee of $50 for checks returned unpaid. Payment of registration fees out of client trust accounts will result in return of the check and referral of the matter to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. Word to the unwise: don’t do it.

Survey Results: Our Readers Speak

In February, we invited readers to participate in an online survey regarding the Disciplinary Board’s website, e-newsletter, and other public communications. Of you, our readers, 5,909 shared your thoughts with us. Here are some of the things you told us.

Where you work:

Of the respondents, 33% work in a law firm; 21% in solo practice; 15% are in a corporation, business, or nonprofit; 12% reported working at a government agency. The rest of you chose “other” (7%), retired (4.5%), judicial court (3.5%), educational institution (3%), military (less than 1%), legal organization (less than 1%), or media (less than 1%).

What you do:

75% stated you are an attorney, 13% selected “other,” and 7.5% are in executive management. The remaining 4.5% include paralegal, administrative staff, professor, student or journalist.

The e-newsletter:

61% describe the attorney e-newsletter somewhat helpful, and 32% find it very helpful. Most think the newsletter is about the right level of depth and detail, and most have not experienced formatting problems. Additional topics suggested include more tips on ethics, reviewing a rule in each issue, and inserting a Q&A section. Comments suggest some of our readers appreciate the use of humor, and some do not.

The website:

As to the website, 73% report having used the website, and 18% use it once a month or more. The most commonly used features of the website are to:

  • Look up information about an attorney;
  • Find rules;
  • Read the “News and Information” section;
  • Download attorney forms; and
  • Check for recent discipline.

Online Address Change:

27% have used the online address change tool. Of these, 65% found it very simple to use, while 31% found it somewhat simple to use.

Online Registration:

2011-2012 was the first year the Disciplinary Board offered online registration. 36% of respondents stated that they or a staff person used the online registration tool. Of these, 59% found it easy to follow, while 35% found it somewhat easy to follow. 75% reported having no technical problems with the online annual registration, 22% having few technical problems, and 3% many technical problems.

Our respondents had a long list of suggestions, all of which will be carefully considered, and many of which will shape our approach to our public communications. We thank all who took the time to respond to our survey, and we deeply appreciate your input.

Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers Announces New Website

Our guest columnist for the month is Kenneth J. Hagreen, Executive Director of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers of Pennsylvania. He shares the following news with us.

Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers (LCL) of Pennsylvania has launched its new website, www.lclpa.org, which provides a comprehensive, one-stop resource on substance disorders and mental health disorders.

The new website offers:

  • more detailed information about LCL and its Helpline services (free evaluation, peer and staff support, free literature);
  • links to obtain free CLE;
  • articles, free video presentations and links to other websites on the topics of stress, substance abuse, addiction, gambling, depression, bipolar, eating disorders, etc.;
  • links to other websites which provide information, discuss the warning signs, and offer self-assessment quizzes for all of these illnesses;
  • more detailed information on how to recognize a lawyer in distress; and the nature of denial and enabling;
  • more detailed information on how to assist a lawyer in distress;
  • links to websites addressing suicide.

Every lawyer should consider familiarizing him or herself with LCL’s website and bookmark it for ready reference. Nearly 1 out of 3 lawyers may be suffering from an illness that if left untreated may lead to disciplinary problems or worse. LCL can help – just call the Lawyers’ Confidential Helpline at 1-888-999-1941 to schedule a free, private and confidential consultation with a qualified healthcare provider.

Link of the Month: Perils of E-Filing

E-filing is becoming a fact of life in many tribunals. Indeed, some are moving toward the day when e-filing will be the preferred, or possibly the only way attorneys may file documents with the court. As with many technologies, the practice presents new opportunities and convenience, but also new risks and new ways to make mistakes.

This article from the June 2011 issue of For the Defense lays out many of the risks of e-filing for attorneys. The problems addressed include:

  • Missing a deadline by miscalculating it
  • Missing a deadline by underestimating the time that it takes
  • Missing a deadline by trying to file a document that exceeds file-size limits
  • Missing a deadline by inadvertently filing the wrong document
  • Missing a deadline by misinterpreting e-filing notices
  • Missing a deadline due to technology glitches
  • Improperly handling confidentiality issues

The article is good cautionary reading for attorneys who practice in jurisdictions that employ or are moving toward e-filing.

Is It a Crime to Rhyme?

From time to time we have celebrated lawyers and even judges who broke into verse in the performance of their duties. But not everyone thinks poetry has a place in legal work.

On December 23, 2011, New York attorney A. Todd Merolla, frustrated by delays in an acrimonious, long-contested divorce case, responded to a fee petition by sending the referee and opposing counsel an email consisting of a 60-line poem loosely based[2] on “The Night Before Christmas” and sent it in an email to opposing counsel and the referee.

Merolla’s effort at creativity did not impress either opposing counsel, who filed a scalding 18-page response to the motion describing the poem as "outrageously offensive, utterly unprofessional" and "threatening," or the referee, who referred the matter to a Grievance Committee for consideration. Merolla stands by his submission and insists he did nothing wrong.

Law is serious and contentious business, and perhaps the lesson of the case is that however admirable creativity and humor may be, there is professional risk in their injudicious use.[3]

Input! More Input!

One of the observations in the survey is that our newsletter focuses on issues arising in private practice and rarely addresses those encountered by lawyers in other settings, such as corporate, organizational, government, or academic work. We would be glad to discuss these topics, but we need help from those who practice in these settings. What issues do you encounter? What are you curious about, or what would you like to see us cover? Please send your suggestions to comments@padisciplinaryboard.org. As always, we love to hear from you and appreciate your comments, questions, and suggestions.

[1] We know you don’t like it.

[2] Very loosely based.

[3] Also, if you’re going to use poetry in your practice, at least make it scan decently.