Category Archives: Client Funds

New CLE on Common Ethics Traps for Attorneys

Pick up the phone and call your clients, don’t “borrow” money from trust accounts, calendar every key deadline & date – the same fundamental ethics principles still hold true for the 21st century lawyer. That’s because the same traditional ethics issues continue to plague lawyers, leading to countless ethics violations and malpractice lawsuits.

Lawyers & Ethics

The same traditional legal ethics issues continue to bring attorneys down – calendaring dates and communicating with clients still top the list.

In this course Joel Selik discusses the most common ethics violations you need to be aware of so you can continue to practice ethically. The main issues discussed include the most common ethical pitfalls, insurance issues, what happens when you get “the letter” and sources of ethics laws & duties. To access the course please click here: Common Ethics Violations to Avoid.

Joel will also address

  • Calendaring deadlines
  • Communicating with clients
  • Trust account issues
  • Dumping clients
  • Staying in your practice area
  • Contingent & set fee agreements
  • Billing issues
  • Responding to a malpractice letter or ethics complaint
  • Key practice points to remain ethical

A malpractice attorney and ethics expert, Joel G. Selik has practiced law for over 30 years and frequently represents attorney clients in malpractice cases. Joel is licensed to practice law in both California and Nevada and he frequently presents seminars on Estate Planning, Nursing Home Litigation, Legal Ethics and Malpractice.

  • Alaska (AK)
  • Arizona (AZ)
  • California (CA)
  • Connecticut (CT)
  • District of Columbia (DC)
  • Illinois (IL)
  • Maryland (MD)
  • Massachusetts (MA)
  • Michigan (MI)
  • Missouri (MO)
  • New Hampshire (NH)
  • New Jersey (NJ)
  • New York (NY)
  • North Dakota (ND)
  • Pennsylvania (PA)
  • South Dakota (SD)

Attorney Credits offers CLE for attorneys in California and around the country. For more information about CLE in California please click the following link: CA CLE.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

New Ethics CLE: Ethics & the SmallLaw Attorney 

Complying with the ethical rules can be a challenge for solo and small firm practitioners. Small firm and solo practitioners normally handle nearly all legal and business aspects of the firm, as they often serve as their own marketing, administration, billing and collections departments.

Ethics & the SmallLaw Attorney 

Small firm and solo attorneys are especially susceptible to ethics violations because they often handle all legal and business aspects of the firm.

In this CLE course, attorney Gary J. Ross provides a highly practical review of the main ethical issues faced by solo practitioners and attorneys in small firms. When you complete this course you will know the sources of ethics rules for attorneys, recognize the reasons SmallLaw attorneys tend to have more ethics violations, understand the most common ethical pitfalls and know how to properly operate your law practice in accordance with the ethics rules. To access the course please click here: Ethics and the Small Law Practitioner.

Key topics covered:

  • The Model Rules
  • Communications concerning a lawyer’s services
  • Using engagement letters
  • Establishing the lawyer-client relationship
  • Charging a reasonable fee
  • Retainers
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Taking on matters in a new area of law
  • Ending the lawyer-client relationship
  • Of counsel relationships
  • Sharing fees

Gary J. Ross founded Jackson Ross PLLC in 2013 to cater to the legal needs of the startup and venture capital community. Prior to founding Jackson Ross, Gary worked in the corporate transactions and securities practice groups in various large firms in various large cities and also managed to fit in a tour of duty with the Treasury Department.

This CLE course is offered in the following states:

  • Alaska (AK)
  • Arizona (AZ)
  • California (CA)
  • Connecticut (CT)
  • District of Columbia (DC)
  • Illinois (IL)
  • Maryland (MD)
  • Massachusetts (MA)
  • Michigan (MI)
  • Missouri (MO)
  • New Hampshire (NH)
  • New Jersey (NJ)
  • New York (NY)
  • North Dakota (ND)
  • Pennsylvania (PA)
  • South Dakota (SD)

Attorney Credits offers CLE for attorneys in New York and around the country. For more information about New York CLE in please click the following link: NY CLE.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Preventing Legal Malpractice: 60 Tips in 60 Minutes

screen-capture

Take cases outside of your main practice area. Forget to calendar key dates. Co-mingle client and firm funds. And whatever you don’t, don’t call or email your clients to keep them informed about their cases. This is a blueprint of how NOT to practice law – or what to do if you want to be disbarred or end up on the wrong side of malpractice lawsuit.

Ethics violations and legal malpractice lawsuits have skyrocketed the last few decades.

Law firms and attorneys must recognize and evaluate their legal risk to avoid damaging ethical violations and costly malpractice lawsuits. In this fast paced CLE course, William T. McCaffery provides 60 tips in 60 minutes to educate you on how to recognize key ethical violations so you can sleep good at night and avoid the nightmare of getting sued. A few of the key areas Mr. McCaffery discusses include being competent, avoiding problem clients, conflicts of interest, establishing the attorney-client relationship, client billing and supervising other attorneys & support staff.

This CLE course will teach you about:

  • Your increasing exposure to legal malpractice claims
  • The top activities that lead to malpractice claims
  • Easy ways to reduce exposure to potential lawsuits

William T. McCaffery focuses on legal malpractice defense, professional liability, commercial litigation and general liability defense. Among other areas of professional liability and defense litigation, he represents attorneys and law firms that have been sued for legal malpractice in cases ranging from real estate and personal injury matters to complex business transactions and commercial litigation.

This CLE course is offered in the following states:

  • Alaska (AK)
  • Arizona (AZ)
  • California (CA)
  • Connecticut (CT)
  • District of Columbia (DC)
  • Illinois (IL)
  • Maryland (MD)
  • Massachusetts (MA)
  • Michigan (MI)
  • New Hampshire (NH)
  • New Jersey (NJ)
  • New York (NY)
  • North Dakota (ND)
  • Pennsylvania (PA)
  • South Dakota (SD)

Attorney Credits offers CLE for attorneys in New York and around the country. For more information about CLE in New York please click the following link: NY CLE.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

CLE Course: Ethical Traps for the Unwary

screen-capture-4

How well do you know the California Rules of Professional Conduct (CRPC), the Business & Professions Code (B&PC) and the State Bar Act? Do you know them well enough to avoid lurking ethical traps?

Lawyers & Ethics

Unfortunately, many lawyers think that the MPRE is the last time they need to study ethics rules and quite a few attorneys have little or no familiarity with the rules of the ethical road in California.

There are many traps for the unwary hiding within those ethical rules – traps that could lead to a malpractice violation or even state bar discipline and disbarment. Join David Carr as he discusses the source of ethical rules in California and ethics traps you need to avoid. To access the course click here: Ethical Traps for the Unwary.

The main topics presented and discussed by Mr. Carr include:

  • Failing to account for client funds
  • Accounting for unearned advanced fees
  • Accepting fees from third parties without client consent
  • Failing to disclose a lack of malpractice insurance
  • Settling a legal malpractice claim without advice to seek counsel
  • Failing to maintain membership address
  • Seeking agreement to withdraw or not make a state bar complaint
  • Candor toward tribunal
  • Moral turpitude through gross negligence

David Cameron Carr is Senior Counsel in the Legal Ethics and Law Firm Practice Group of Klinedinst PC. Mr. Carr specializes in legal ethics and the law of lawyering, including discipline defense, bar admissions, attorney fee disputes, legal malpractice, attorney professional responsibility and ethics advice. Mr. Carr graduated from Loyola Law School in 1986 and was admitted to the California Bar that year. After practicing in business litigation and commercial law, Mr. Carr spent 12 years as staff attorney, discipline prosecutor and manager at the State Bar of California, before returning to private practice in 2001 and then joining Klinedinst PC in 2016. Mr. Carr is an active member of the San Diego County Bar Association, where he serves on the Legal Ethics Committee.

This CLE course is currently offered in the following states:

  • California (CA)

For more information about the CA MCLE requirement please click the following link: CA CLE.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Show Me The Money! Ethics of Trust Accounting CLE

screen-capture

If you are like me, one of the first things you do while perusing your state bar journal or website is to flip quickly to the back and the scan the discipline pages. There is something that fascinates me about the stories of those attorneys that were unfortunate enough to get a public censure… or even disbarment in the most extreme circumstances. And it seems that almost every time an attorney gets disbarred it’s because they committed serious ethical violations when handling their client’s money.

The mishandling of client funds is a top complaint in both legal malpractice cases and State Bar proceedings.

Heather Rosing presents this course because attorneys continue to (intentionally or unintentionally) mishandle client funds. In this course, Ms. Rossing will show you how to ethically deposit, account for and disburse client funds so that you can properly navigate and comply with the complex & technical rules of client trust accounting so you can avoid a legal malpractice claims and State Bar discipline. While Ms. Rosing mainly bases her discussion on the ethics rules and opinions of California, the strategies and tips that she provides will benefit attorneys around the country. To access the course click here: Show Me The Money: Ethical Client Trust Accounting.

Subjects covered in this ethics CLE course:

  • Ethical rules & resources
  • State bar findings on trust accounts violations
  • Preserving the identity of funds & the property of the client
  • Ethically handling papers, property & fees when terminating the representation
  • IOLTA vs. Non-IOLTA trusts
  • Helpful ethics opinions
  • Co-mingling funds
  • The receipt & clearance of funds
  • Advancing costs & fees
  • Credit cards
  • Non-client funds
  • Loans from trust
  • Fee disputes
  • Trust as escrow or “holding account”
  • Trust account scams

The former President of the San Diego County Bar Association (SDCBA), Heather L. Rosing is the Chairperson of the Professional Liability Department overseeing a team of Klinedinst lawyers across the state of California in the defense of professionals such as lawyers and accountants. She has developed a nationwide reputation for her experience & skill in litigating complex malpractice and fraud cases; in delivering sound advice in the areas of ethics & risk management; and in defending lawyers, accountants, and judges in disciplinary matters. Ms. Rosing also serves as a consultant & expert witness in the areas of privileges, fee disputes, professional responsibility and attorney duties.

This CLE course is offered in the following states:

  • Alaska (AK)
  • Arizona (AZ)
  • California (CA)
  • Connecticut (CT)
  • District of Columbia (DC)
  • Illinois (IL)
  • Maryland (MD)
  • Massachusetts (MA)
  • Michigan (MI)
  • Missouri (MO)
  • New Hampshire (NH)
  • New Jersey (NJ)
  • New York (NY)
  • North Dakota (ND)
  • Pennsylvania (PA)
  • South Dakota (SD)

Attorney Credits offers continuing legal education (CLE) for attorneys in California and around the country. For more information about CLE in California please click the following link: CA CLE.

Tagged , , , , , ,

How to Avoid Legal Malpractice Claims

screen-capture

Over the last few decades, the incidence of legal malpractice claims has greatly increased as more clients have begun to sue their attorneys for substandard work.  There are many reasons to explain the increased number of legal malpractice claims, and the recent downturn in the economy has only generated more malpractice claims.  In order to avoid these lawsuits, attorneys must be extremely cognizant of their ethical duties to their clients and also the major sources of client discontent that lead to the greatest amount of legal malpractice claims.

“Pay attention to the details because they separate mediocrity from excellence” – Mark Wilson

To learn how you can provide excellent service to your clients and avoid legal malpractice claims, please join attorney Mark Wilson for a look at the areas that lead to malpractice liability.  Establishing a good rapport with the client, paying attention to your ethical duties and providing excellent legal service to your client can help you to avoid major pitfalls and malpractice lawsuits.  The main issues discussed include recent malpractice trends, how best to proceed if you decide to accept the case, the importance of using fee agreements, early preparation, giving the client guidance, intelligent time keeping, learning your craft and client trust accounts.  To access the course, please click here: How to Avoid Legal Malpractice Claims.

Further topics addressed in this CLE course include:

  • The reputation of attorneys
  • Malpractice statistics
  • The downturn in the economy & the increased incidence of malpractice claims
  • Deciding whether to accept the assignment
  • Avoiding difficult clients
  • Appearance & reality
  • Documenting the attorney-client relationship
  • Avoiding conflicts of interest
  • Conflict waiver letters
  • The retainer agreement
  • Corresponding frequently with clients
  • Jury instructions
  • Why information is not enough
  • Block billing
  • “No charge”
  • Proper staffing
  • Timekeepers
  • Competence
  • Workload
  • Client trust accounts
  • Attention to detail

A seasoned trial attorney and skilled negotiator, Mark B. Wilson has won nearly every case he has tried or arbitrated and has lost only one jury trial in which the appellate court reversed the judgment in his client’s favor.  He tries cases in both federal and state courts in a variety of practice areas, including copyright infringement, construction defects, covenants not to compete, breach of contract, attorney malpractice, unlawful detainer and personal injury.  He and his partner Gerald Klein have recovered nearly $100 million in plaintiffs’ cases and have won defense verdicts in “bet the company” cases where millions of dollars were on the table.  For eight consecutive years he has been acknowledged as a Southern California Super Lawyer in the areas of business litigation, construction litigation and intellectual property litigation. He is also recognized as one of the top trial attorneys in Orange County by OC Register Metro magazine and Mr. Wilson has also achieved an “AV” rating from Martindale-Hubbell.  A frequent lecturer to bar organizations on modern trial techniques, he has also authored several articles on trial practice.

This CLE course on handling media attention is currently accredited in the following states:

  • Alaska (AK)
  • Arizona (AZ)
  • California (CA)
  • Connecticut (CT)
  • District of Columbia (DC)
  • Illinois (IL)
  • Maryland (MD)
  • Massachusetts (MA)
  • Michigan (MI)
  • New Jersey (NJ)
  • New York (NY)
  • Pennsylvania (PA)
  • South Dakota (SD)

Attorney Credits offers continuing legal education (CLE) for attorneys in Illinois and around the country.  For more information about CLE in Illinois  please click the following link: Illinois CLE.

Tagged ,

CLE Course: The Initial Client Interview in Family Law Matters

Do you know one of the best times to prevent malpractice?

During the very first meeting with the client – at the outset of the attorney-client relationship.

screen-capture

This is a crucial point in the attorney-client relationship that must be used to examine many facets of your representation – from your competence to handle the matter in question to the existence of conflicts of interest.  Carefully screening potential new clients is important not only to ensure that the relationship will be mutually beneficial for both parties, but it will also assist you in avoiding problem clients …. before they even become your client.

Family Law attorneys face an even more uphill battle at the initial client interview.  Divorce is an extremely emotional and difficult time for your clients and their families.  As these distressed clients walk into your door for the initial client interview they are going through one of the toughest times in their lives.  You have to ask yourself – is this client right for you?

And more importantly … are you the right attorney for this client?

If you need a few pointers on conducting the initial client interview in a family law case we have just added an excellent new CLE course featuring Los Angeles attorney Jennifer Riemer.  In this informative course Mrs. Reimer presents numerous practical points that can be deployed in your family law practice.  The main topics discussed by Mrs. Riemer include the importance of the first meeting, building trust with the client, fees, referrals, confidentiality, the attorneys role with client, deciding whether to take the case, how to get the information & documents that you need and how to present the information to the client.  To access the CLE course, please click this link:  The Initial Client Interview in Family Law Matters.

Further issues addressed include:

  • The source of new clients
  • Setting client expectations
  • Guaranteeing results for clients
  • Charging for consultations
  • Conflict checks
  • Confidentiality & technology
  • 7 things to tell clients about technology
  • Listening to the client
  • What you want to learn at the first meeting
  • Limited scope agreements
  • The questions you need to ask
  • Domestic violence
  • Checklists
  • Process options
  • Documents

Jennifer M. Riemer is an associate in the family law firm of Walzer & Melcher LLP in Woodland Hills, California. She received her Bachelor of Arts Degree from Vanderbilt University and her Juris Doctor from Boston University Law School. While in law school, she served as the secretary for the Children and Law Society. Mrs. Riemer also served as a law clerk at Children’s Legal Services in Boston, Massachusetts, and interned at the Legal Aid Society Juvenile Rights Division in Brooklyn, New York. She is a member of the Southern California Family Law American Inn of Court, the Family Law Section of the State Bar of California, the Family Law Section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association and the Family Law Section of the Beverly Hills Bar Association. She has lectured several times on family law issues for the State Bar and for the Inn of Court and she was also selected to Southern California Rising Stars in 2010 and 2011.

This CLE course on the initial Family Law client interview is currently accredited in the following states:

  • Alaska (AK)
  • Arizona (AZ)
  • California (CA)
  • Connecticut (CT)
  • District of Columbia (DC)
  • Georgia (GA)
  • Illinois (IL)
  • Maryland (MD)
  • Massachusetts (MA)
  • Michigan (MI)
  • New Jersey (NJ)
  • New York (NY)
  • South Dakota (SD)

This course is available for attorneys in New Jersey and around the country.  For more information about continuing legal education (CLE) in New Jersey, please click the following link: New Jersey CLE.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

CLE Course: Client Intake, Damages & Expert Witnesses – Do You Want to Take This PI Case?

Dan GilleonWhen you are contemplating whether to take that next case remember the quote below.  This quote is from a seasoned attorney who has learned his lesson the hard way – not to take every case that walks through the door.  How many times have you started a case and then once you get deeper into it you think to yourself, “why did I take this case in the first place?”  Doing your homework on the plaintiff and fully evaluating numerous aspects of the case can save you a lot of time, money and headache … and maybe even a malpractice lawsuit.  Before you even take the client you must consider everything from the potential client’s appearance and likability to potential damages and expert witnesses that will be needed for the case.

“The best case is the one I did not take.”

Luckily, you don’t have to make those rookie mistakes because Dan Gilleon is here to help you decide if you really want to take that next personal injury case.  Dan graciously shares his years of experience and wisdom in a recently added CLE course entitled – Client Intake, Damages & Expert Witnesses: Do You Want to Take This PI Case?.  In this in-depth course, Dan offers numerous practical points for you to consider before taking your next personal injury case.  This CLE course from Attorney Credits focuses on principle issues to consider at client intake, evaluating damages and the experts you will need for the liability & damages phase of trial.

Further topics discussed in this personal injury CLE course include:

  • Evaluating a potential plaintiff
  • Language skills
  • Appearance
  • Age of the plaintiff
  • Occupation
  • Criminal history
  • Willingness to go to trial
  • Liability
  • Statutes of limitation
  • Recorded statements to the insurance company
  • Timing of the accident
  • Property damage claims
  • Police reports
  • Witnesses
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Competing lawsuits
  • Premises liability cases
  • The use of video
  • Underinsured/uninsured motorist claims
  • Treating doctors, insurance coverage
  • Photographs of the vehicle & accident scene
  • Medical treatment
  • Specialists
  • Lost work
  • Bankruptcy
  • Dog bites
  • Dan also discusses the following types of experts:
  • Certified safety experts
  • Human factors experts
  • Biomechanical experts
  • Mechanical engineers
  • Fire/explosion experts
  • Medical doctors
  • The treating doctors
  • Vocational rehabilitationists
  • Life care planners
  • Economic experts

When considering whether to take your next personal injury case its important to remember, “it’s never about the money, until it’s about the money.” Dan Gilleon is a senior partner and founder of the personal injury San Diego law firm of Mitchell & Gilleon.  He is a an experienced Plaintiff’s Civil Trial Attorney who recently acted as co-counsel for Brian Giles, former San Diego Padres player, who was sued by Cheri Olvera for palimony and domestic violence in a highly publicized case.  He has obtained significant verdicts in the areas of hate crimes, wrongful termination, sexual harassment and personal injury.  A recipient of the “Outstanding Trial Lawyer Award” given to him by peer attorneys, his extensive trial experience has led to several significant verdicts.

This CLE course on the evaluating personal injury cases is currently accredited in the following states:

  • Alaska (AK)
  • Arizona (AZ)
  • California (CA)
  • Connecticut (CT)
  • Delaware (DE)
  • District of Columbia (DC)
  • Georgia (GA)
  • Illinois (IL)
  • Maryland (MD)
  • Massachusetts (MA)
  • Michigan (MI)
  • New Jersey (NJ)
  • New York (NY)
  • Pennsylvania (PA)
  • South Dakota (SD)

This course is available for attorneys in Illinois and around the country.  For more information about continuing legal education (CLE) in Illinois, please click the following link: Illinois CLE.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Avoiding Ethical Violations & Legal Malpractice Claims

Legal Malpractice – two words attorneys never want to hear in their legal career … unless they are taking a CLE course with Attorney Credits.  There are many avenues that can lead to a malpractice claim, from conflicts of interest to improperly calendaring important dates.  However, many of these ethical traps can easily be avoided with a little knowledge and diligence.

We have just added an excellent resource for attorneys entitled Avoiding Ethical Violations & Legal Malpractice Claims: An Expert’s Perspective. Prominent Legal Malpractice attorney James E. King provides a comprehensive discussion of the common ethical pitfalls that  lead to ethical violations from the state bar and legal malpractice claims from your clients.

The main topics discussed include:

  • The Golden Rules
  • The attorney client relationship
  • Avoiding legal malpractice during the representation
  • Avoiding legal malpractice once the attorney client relationship has terminated

In addition to the main topics Mr. King also discusses a number of other pertinent ethical considerations. Further points addressed include communicating with clients, procrastination, keeping current on fees, substance abuse, representing multiple clients, potential conflicts, clarifying & limiting the scope of the attorney client relationship, the retention agreement, clients who habitually change attorneys, suing for legal fees, withdrawal, handling matters promptly, staying current on the law, the “rescue attorney,’ mistakes, keeping a clear record and client papers.

The course is currently offered in the following states and qualifies for 3 credits hours of Legal Ethics:

James E. King is the Founder of the King Law Corporation in San Diego.  Mr. King specializes in attorney fee disputes, legal ethics, and advises corporate counsel and law firms on litigation costs.  Mr. King has testified as an expert witness on numerous attorney-client fee disputes and has skillfully represented prominent clients such as Prince Fahd Aziz of Saudi Arabia and Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam.  Mr. King serves as a Special Master for the State Bar of California and is Vice-Chair of the Fee Arbitration Committee for the San Diego County Bar Association.  Jim also lectures and publishes works on attorney fee ethics and other related topics.

No Such Thing as a Non-Refundable Retainer?

By Jason Castillo, Director of Legal Education

The Iowa Supreme Court recently suspended a retired Iowa attorney for 30 days after ruling that a fee agreement with a criminal defendant was unethical.  According to the opinion, “the amount of the fee charged and collected by Vilmont for performing the limited and insignificant services in representing his client was, without question, unreasonable.”  The court then stated that a reasonable fee would have been about $600 under the circumstances of the case.  To read the opinion, click here.

The charges arose from attorney Bill Vilmont’s representation of a client on a state charge of enticement of a minor.  According to the Iowa Supreme Court opinion, the agreement provided for charges of $225 an hour, with a minimum fee of $2,500 to be paid with a retainer.  The $2,500 retainer was placed in a trust.

When the state charges were dropped in leiu of federal charges, the client dropped Vilmont and retained a different attorney to represent him in federal court, according to court documents.  Five days after the state charge was dismissed, Vilmont withdrew the $2,500 from the trust account without notifying his former client, according to the opinion.  Vilmont then ignored several requests to return the retainer.

Vilmont provided an accounting to the Iowa Supreme Court Disciplinary Board showing that he worked 3.7 hours on the client’s case – including one hour to provide the accounting.  The court, however, ruled that the minimum fee contract was “clearly unethical” and that Vilmont had failed to provide a timely accounting.

After scanning some of the comments on the ABA website, it’s clear that a number of attorneys did not agree with the Iowa Supreme Court ruling.  However, in the words of attorney fee expert James King, there is no such thing as a non-refundable retainer.  All unearned fees must be returned to the client.[1]  Under California Rule 3-700(D)(2), unless the attorney and client have contracted for a “true retainer,” the attorney must refund any portion of an advance fee that the attorney has not yet earned.[2]

And an examination of authority reveals that only “true retainers” are nonrefundable – and these are extremely rare.  When a client discharges an attorney, the Rules of Professional Conduct require the attorney to “[p]romptly refund any part of a fee paid in advance that has not been earned.”[3]  In California and other states there are also Ethics Opinions that address the subject.

What are your thoughts?

For more information, we have a few resources available for you:


[1] Baranowski v. State Bar (1979) 24 Cal.3d 153.

[2] The California Rules also state that a refund is unnecessary if the money is “a true retainer fee … paid solely for the purpose of ensuring the availability of the member for the matter” (see Rule 3-700(D)(2).  However, in the words of the California Supreme Court, true retainers are very rare these days.

[3] See California Ethics Opinion 01-02 which speculates that there are probably only a handful of situations in which a client would want to pay a true retainer.