Board briefed on proposed new Bar rules

first_img Board briefed on proposed new Bar rules Rules that will make Bar members delinquent if they fail to pay probation monitoring costs, the fees for attending the Bar’s ethics school, or fee arbitration awards have been presented to the Board of Governors in preparation for final board action in December.The board is also getting rules to help define what are reasonable costs that can be charged to clients and on bonuses for nonlawyer employees.Disciplinary Procedure Committee Chair Don Horn reviewed the rules with the board at its October 3 meeting, and noted they will come back to the board for final action at its December 5 meeting.A proposed amendment to Rule 1-7.3 specifies that lawyers who are admitted to the Bar on supervised probation, those who agree (including agreement to pay the fees) to be diverted to the ethics school following a grievance complaint or to a similar program, or those who are ordered to repay a client following a fee arbitration award in an agreed-to Bar arbitration will be considered delinquent if they fail to pay the award or associated costs.Those lawyers will be treated the same as those who are past due in paying their annual Bar membership fees.The proposed rule change on costs and fees provides guidance to members as to how costs are determined to be reasonable and establishes a safe harbor for costs that are sufficiently detailed in written contracts or other documents approved by the client.Ways of evaluating whether costs charged in a case are fair include:• The nature and extent of disclosure made to the client.• Whether there is a specific agreement between the lawyer and client on how costs would be calculated and what costs the client would pay.• The actual amount charged by third- party providers of services to the attorney.• Whether specific costs can be identified and allocated to a specific client and whether there is a reasonable way to estimate those costs.• The reasonableness of in-house service charges if it was an in-house service provided.• The current and past relationship between the lawyer and client.The rule also provides that if costs are spelled out in a client contract “the costs charged thereunder shall be presumed reasonable.”On payments to nonlawyer employees, Horn said the DPC is proposing an amendment that clarifies that lawyers cannot reward employees based on a percentage of the business they bring in or by fixed percentage of the fee from a case they worked on. That, he noted, would amount to splitting legal fees with nonlawyers.Other changes set to go to the board next month include:• Making changes to Rule 4-3.4 on fairness to opposing parties and counsel to codify recent court rulings in that area. The change specifically allows an attorney to state a personal opinion about a witness’ credibility in certain circumstances when the statement is supported by evidence or allowed by rule or law.• An amendment to Rule 3-3.4 allowing members of grievance committees to continue to participate in the disposition of cases pending when their terms end.• Revising Rule 3-7.2 to allow an interim suspension of a lawyer who has resigned, been disbarred, or been suspended in another jurisdiction or by a court. Board briefed on proposed new Bar rulescenter_img November 1, 2003 Regular Newslast_img read more