Attorney E-Newsletter

November 2013

South Carolina: No Email, No License

In 2011, the Supreme Court of South Carolina amended its rules to provide:

Persons admitted to the practice of law in South Carolina shall have a continuing duty to verify and update their information in the AIS, and must ensure that the AIS information is current and accurate at all times. At a minimum, the contact information must include a mailing address, an email address, and a telephone number.

And they mean it. On October 17, 2013, the Supreme Court suspended lawyer Cynthia Collie from the practice of law for failing to provide an email address, along with other conduct. The Court stated, “According to Commission Counsel, respondent’s failure to provide an operational email account is interfering with the Commission's and Office of Disciplinary Counsel's ability to communicate with respondent.”

As we have previously reported, the American Bar Association has adopted changes to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct making clear that a lawyer’s duty of competence requires familiarity with new technology. The new comments to Rule 1.1 adopted by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania state, “To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject.” The days when a lawyer has the option of resisting the advance of technology may be coming to an end.

Revisions to Rules of Professional Conduct Published

Speaking of the new changes to the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) on which we reported last month, the revised rules have been published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin at 43 Pa.B. 6641 (November 9, 2013). They took effect November 21, 2013.

The RPC Books are in the process of being reprinted. Look for the new blue-colored books to be released soon.

Here We Ghost Again

Reader James F. Mannion responded to our October piece on ghostwriting by reminding us that the Pennsylvania Bar Association Committee on Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility and the Professional Guidance Committee of the Philadelphia Bar Association joined forces not too long ago to produce Joint Formal Opinion 2011-100 on the subject. We wrote about the opinion here. The actual topic was “limited scope engagements.” The opinion is of particular value to Pennsylvania lawyers (but not to ghosts).

Third Party Solicit Still Illicit

A senior Philadelphia attorney has accepted a public censure from the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania after allowing an outside marketing firm to solicit clients on his behalf.

Steven M. Lipschutz, of Philadelphia, has been in practice since 1964. He entered into an agreement with PCH Consulting, a firm that provides marketing services to doctors and medical providers. PCH contacted 1,103 people who had been involved in auto accidents and induced them to sign contingent fee agreements retaining Lipschutz for their personal injury cases. For each such agreement signed, Lipschutz paid a fee between $55 and $110 to PCH.

In a Joint Petition for Discipline on Consent, Lipschutz acknowledged that by allowing PCH to solicit clients on his behalf, he violated several Rules of Professional Conduct:

  • Rule 5.3(a), regarding a lawyer’s responsibility for the actions of nonlawyers in his employ;
  • Rule 7.3(a), solicitation of employment;
  • Rule 7.7(a), accepting referrals from a lawyer referral service that violate the Rules of Professional Conduct;
  • Rule 8.4(a), violating the Rules of Professional Conduct through conduct of another; and
  • Rule 8.4(c), conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.

Mitigating factors were that Lipschutz had practiced law for 48 years without discipline of record, and that he fully cooperated with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel’s investigation, including providing voluminous documents.

The parties jointly recommended public censure, a recommendation the Supreme Court accepted.

Ecks Post Factor

From the leading law firm in the bustling burg of Pawnee, Indiana,[1] comes this rousing example of everything that can go wrong with lawyer advertising. Speaking for the firm of Babip,[2] Pecota,[3] Vorp,[4] and Eckstein,[5] former major leaguer David Eckstein shows that as a lawyer, he’s a pretty good shortstop.

In Memoriam: Patti Scheimer Bednarik

Patti Scheimer Bednarik

With the deepest sadness we have brought to any article in the history of this newsletter, we note the passing of Patti Scheimer Bednarik, Director of Fitness and Character for the Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners, and longtime (1996-2010) Disciplinary Counsel in District III (Harrisburg) of the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. She passed away October 26, 2013, after a courageous fight with cancer, at the age of 56. She leaves behind her devoted husband, Joe Bednarik; brothers Alan (Deborah) Scheimer, Craig (Penne) Scheimer, and Gary (Dode) Scheimer; and 11 nieces and nephews.

Obituaries appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Patriot-News of Harrisburg, and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Patti held a deep compassion for animals, and especially dogs. She taught the first animal law course at the Widener University School of Law, and founded and served as the first chair of the Animal Law Committee of the Pennsylvania Bar Association in 2004. In 2005, then-Gov. Ed Rendell appointed her to serve on the Dog Law Advisory Board, where she helped draft stronger regulations governing commercial puppy mills. She helped organize annual Animal Law conferences attended by hundreds of practicing attorneys, students, and others. She and her husband Joe were energetic advocates for shelter dogs, and devoted countless volunteer hours not just in the law but also in the care and protection of dogs and other animals.

When she was 15 years old, Patti decided to devote each August 23 to doing something she had never done before. She jumped by parachute, went tandem paragliding over the glaciers in Alaska at sunset, swam with wild Hector dolphins off the shore of New Zealand, studied tap dancing, relearned how to ride a bike, and enrolled in a Quest class. The Harrisburg Patriot-News documented her August 23 adventures here.

Patti’s enthusiasm and positive outlook were an inspiration to all who knew her. She was a skillful lawyer, a passionate teacher and advocate, a generous, adventurous spirit, and a treasured friend. We will miss her deeply. And next August 23, we will do something we have never done before.

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