f/k/a . . . the archives

June 7, 2003

___ Informing Consumers & Lawyers as Fiduciaries

Filed under: — David Giacalone @ 7:04 pm

Below are ethicalEsq-f/k/a postings and annotated web resources on this topic.  Find our full list of annotated ethics links by clicking the Client Rights & Legal Ethics link on the Navigation Bar.

[for resources relating to Self-Help Centers, Pro Se Litigants, or Unbundling, click Access and Affordability]

Need a Lawyer? Judge for Yourself The Federal Trade Commission has issued this consumer guide to choosing a lawyer, including advice about keeping fees low and choosing between price and quality.

Before You Hire a Lawyer Know Your Rights This is a helpful e-pamplet from HALT (also available in print).

Fiduciary Duty to Disclose:  Lawyers are in a fiduciary relationship with their clients.  According to the Law.com Dictionary, “A fiduciary is held to a standard of conduct and trust above that of a stranger or of a casual business person. He/she/it must avoid ‘self-dealing or ‘conflicts of interests’ in which the potential benefit to the fiduciary is in conflict with what is best for the person who trusts him/her/it.”

As Prof. Lester Brickman has explained: “The principal fiduciary obligations imposed on the lawyer include the duties of confidentiality, loyalty, safeguarding property, giving disinterested advice, and acting fairly towards the client. The duties to act fairly and in a non-self-interested fashion, in particular, relate to the financial relationship between the lawyer and client. ” (The Continuing Assault on the Citadel of Fiduciary Protection, University of Illinois Law Review, 2003, at 1185-86; available at SSRN).  Such duties also come into play when a lawyer is advising on alternative ways to address a client’s problems. Learn more about fiduciary duties in f/k/a postings such as “Fees and the Lawyer Fiduciary” (02/12/04) and “The lawyer’s fudiciary obligations to disclose”  (Feb. 14, 2005).

Legal Consumer’s Bill of Rights HALT’s Legal Consumer Bill of Rights Project was launched to educate policy makers, the media and the public about the rights of legal consumers. This project seeks to promote increased accountability in the legal profession. HALT has developed model legislation that requires attorneys to include a Legal Consumers Bill of Rights in their contracts and retainer agreements. Similar protections have already been adopted in Illinois (for matrimonial cases) and in New York. HALT’s Legal Consumers Bill of Rights spells out four basic rights that every American citizen should expect from the civil justice system – the right to control your own legal affairs; the right to affordable legal services; the right to competent legal representation; and emthe right to an accessible and accountable legal system.

FAQs from NOBC The National Association of Bar Counsel has put together brief answers to frequently asked questions from the public about Legal Ethics and the Attorney Discipline System. The questions addressed are: What are “Legal Ethics? What conduct is covered? What conduct is not covered? Who makes the rules? Who determines if the rules have been broken? How do I file a charge of unethical conduct against a lawyer? Will the Disciplinary Agency reimburse money that a dishonest attorney stole from me? What is Fee Arbitration?

Counselors Oughta Counsel (Not Conceal) This column, by ethicalEsq?‘s Editor, was published by Prairielaw.com in 2001, and shows the failure of the American Bar Association’s new model rules of professional responsibility, proposed by the ABA Ethics 2000 Commission, to ensure that legal clients are fully-informed consumers who have the benefits of competition and innovation (meaningful information and meaningful choices).  [Editor's Note: Ethics 1000 would have been a better name for this ABA project -- in many ways, more appropriate for a medieval guild than for a group of "responsible" professionals in the Third Millennium.]

FTC Letter to Ala. Supreme Court on Lawyer Advertising In this detailed Press Release, which links to the fully-footnoted, 16-page Letter (Sept.30, 2002), the FTC staff addresses several proposed restrictions on lawyer advertising, concluding that they would restrict truthful and nonmisleading information, and rejecting a “dignity of the profession” argument.

Public Citizen Comments on Ky Bar’s Proposed Advertising Rules This press release (June 2, 2003) describes PC’s Comments, with links to the full document (a comprehensive, fully-footnoted, 29-page-pdf. submission), and to letters sent to FTC and DOJ requesting an antitrust investigation. PC concludes that the Rules would go too far, violating the First Amendment and raising antitrust concerns.

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