Ethics & Professional Responsibility

Q. My client has just been indicted on 13-counts of fraud and every reporter in town has called me for comment. Should I call them back? 

A. Before fielding their questions, ask yourself whether silence is “golden” or “prejudicial.”Warned against trying cases in the press, many lawyers limit their advocacy to the courtroom. Lest we taint the process, attorneys must refrain from “extrajudicial

Q. After his client denied any text messages about this case, defense counsel sent me a thumb drive with hundreds of them, including some attorney-client communications. May I use these?

A. Even at war with the other side, there are ethical rules of engagement.Before you make any use of these records, you must notify opposing counsel on the nature and

Q. As we head to the beach for a two-week vacation, my wife and kids want me to leave my cell phone behind so I won’t be distracted with client calls. Is this a good idea?

Legal Ethics on Vacation

A. Taking a well-deserved respite from law practice is a very good idea. The time away will let you decompress, avoid

Q. Rather than focus on charges that may be tough to beat, my client repeatedly insists that she wouldn’t be prosecuted at all if she were white. As a white woman, how can I get her off this racist rant?


A. As attorneys, we are trained to spot the issues in our cases, research the law, and apply the law

Q. In a profession with a higher incidence of mental illness and addiction than society at large, are we doing enough to care for our colleagues?


A. Like lawyers themselves, our profession places a low priority on wellness and mental health in general.In a field where the “client comes first,” many of us frown upon the concept of “work-life balance.” Rewarded

Q. If I don’t take retainers, I won’t need a trust account at all. Can’t I avoid this whole problem by billing for my work after it’s completed?


A. You can—if you wish to trade one problem for a more significant problem.There’s no law saying you have to open a trust account if you don’t receive funds that must be deposited into one.

Q. I read that Maryland’s Bar Counsel tried to deprive accused lawyers of an equal right to discovery in disciplinary cases. Whatever happened to fundamental fairness?


A. “Fundamental fairness” is a work in progress — progress that may only be achieved through vigilance in asserting the rights of accused lawyers.In Maryland, Bar Counsel took the position that an October 1, 2021 rule revision divested respondents

I’m one of those legal dinosaurs that still keeps handwritten ledgers. Are there specific programs I should use?


A. Yes. And there are lots of excellent programs to choose from.Just run a search of legal practice management software, and you will find hundreds of reviews online. Some of these programs reside on your office computer system, others in the cloud, and

Q. I handle criminal cases for one flat fee – start to finish. When must I put the fee in trust and when can I take payments along the way?


A. The answer should be clearly stated in your retainer agreement.Although flat fees paid in advance must be held in trust, your agreement must specify when these fees are earned as the

Q. Jack Has a General Practice.Without Expertise, He’ll Take What He’ll Please,On Everything under the Sun.Should Jack Forgo Fees, Adopt Specialties,Or Limit His Focus to One?


A. In Lincoln’s day, just about everyone was a Jack-of-All-Trades.Riding the circuit from one courthouse to the next, the finest antebellum barristers handled everything from contracts to criminal defense with equal aplomb. Their saddlebags overflowed with