New service for busy lawyers: prompt, affordable ethics consultation

The Rules of Professional Conduct apply to the practice of law all day every day.  Complying with them can seem like breathing, part of the autonomic nervous system operating below the level of consciousness.  But relying on one’s professional autonomic nervous system to comply with the RPC can lead to problems, problems that at the very least can be a distraction from the original goals of the attorney-client relationship and at the worst can harm one’s reputation or suspend of end one’s career.  In between  the extremes are a variety of problems that cost varying amounts of time, money and emotional upset.  Most, if not all, of such problems are preventable, but  for a variety of reasons prevention is not always so easy to do on one’s own.  Some of those reasons are:

1. It is hard to assess one’s own situation.  There is an inherent inability to be objective in one’s own case.

2. If one is a subordinate lawyer, raising an ethics issue to one’s superior can be risky.  It shouldn’t be.  Whether it is or not is a matter of firm culture.  At least one of Connecticut best large firms has a rule that every lawyer who has an ethical question or concern must bring it to a member of the firm’s ethics committee.  Failure to do so can lead to termination.  But many firms have no such rule.  All firms have their eyes on accounts receivable.  That’s not a bad thing.  It’s a necessity.  But if focus on money in the door and not upsetting the “client-applecart” is so intense as to blind lawyers in the firm to other matters of significance, one can imagine how ethics issues might be massaged, or ignored or rationalized or hidden.

3. Time and money.  Complying with the RPC is part of the cost of doing business but it is a cost that is hard to budget for.  Time and money spent on addressing an ethical problem comes off the bottom line.

But prevention costs less than defense.

In it’s simplest form this service provides telephone consultation.  If you have a question about the application of the Rules of Professional Conduct, call me at 203-444-7348.  I have fourteen years of experience providing telephone support to lawyers and non-lawyers with questions about legal ethics.  I will help you think through the problem, but, unless we otherwise agree in writing, I will not offer an opinion or agree to represent you.   Absent a written agreement spelling out the scope of representation, I only offer to consult with callers, to assist them in exercising their own independent professional judgment rather than, for example, to tell them what to do.

Cost:  For thirty days starting on October 11, 2011, subject to the following conditions, you, the caller, will get to decide what a reasonable fee for the consultation is.  The conditions are: (1) you must pay something for the consultation.  It is not free. (2) The fee must be reasonable in your own mind.  This is obviously an unusual business model, which is why I am trying it on a time limited, experimental basis.  My hope is to encourage attempts to prevent ethical issues from becoming more serious, time-consuming, expensive problems.  By trying to reduce cost as potential barrier to use of the service, I hope to encourage lawyers to call a person who independent and who has a fair amount of relevant experience with the Rules of Professional Conduct.

You are invited to contact Wick R. Chambers at 203-444-7348 or at wick.chambers@winnicklaw.com

Experience:

Member of CBA Committee on Professional Ethics 1986 to the present

Vice Chair of the Ethics Committee for ten years, 1997 – 2007

Chair of the Ethics Committee for four years. 2007 – 2011

Counsel to Federal Court Grievance Committee 2008 to the present