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Be good for goodness sake

Bummer.  You get your copy of OBAR this week, and instead of being crammed full of interesting cases -- like the recent one from the Supreme Court saying that if you buy a car from somebody who stole it, you don't get valid title (time out for this week's Moment of Duh) -- it's 191 eye-glazing pages of the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct.

Yes, I know, you thought it was called the Code of Professional Responsibility, but it's not anymore.  Or, at least, it won't be after February 1st of next year.  As I told you three weeks ago, the Ohio Supreme Court has adopted a whole new code of disciplinary rules for lawyers, and the name change (from Code of Professional Responsibility to Rules of Professional Conduct) isn't the only one by far. 

There are a lot of changes, and a seminar or two down the road is as good an idea as Britney Spears taking a baby-safety course.  You could, of course, tackle your copy of OBAR, but that sounds as appetizing as taking Dostoevsky along for some light reading at the beach.  (Dostoevsky has better characters than OBAR; on the plus side for OBAR, though, nobody dies at the end.)  But I'll give you at least a flavor of the new rules.

One of the most important changes is on the financial end.  Although the rules always required you to deposit a retainer for an hourly fee into an IOLTA or similar account (something other than your own), the rule was rarely enforced up until about five years ago.  The new Rules continue the trend of stricter enforcement by requiring much more record-keeping of bank accounts, and especially escrow funds -- check out Rule 1.15.  But that doesn't necessarily mean more pen-and-paper tracking; since the rules were first announced for public comment, they've been revised to provide that the record-keeping requirement can be met "through the use of common business accounting software."  In other words, if you've got all your stuff on Quicken or Quickbooks, as long as you can pull off what you need through the reports feature, you should be fine.  You may have to be more careful how you itemize the information going into the program, though.

Another change is to the concept of client confidentiality.  The concept used to be limited to information received from the client, but its been expanded to include all "information relating to the representation of a client," including, presumably, information that is a matter of public record.

Finally, there's a big stress on communications.  Most of these are normative rules ("the lawyer shall... keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter").  One of the problems with rules like this in the disciplinary context is that what is "reasonable" might differ greatly, depending upon the situation and who's doing the interpreting of the term.  Given that about 80% of all disciplinary matters involve some aspect of a communication breakdown, I wouldn't be surprised to see this develop into something more than initially envisioned.

We're going to have a light day tomorrow; I'm going to be on the road, and what's more, we're in the process of moving our law offices.  We're presently located at E. 12th and Euclid, which with the work on the Euclid Corridor Project has made the entire area take on all the trappings of a war zone.  We'll be moving into the Standard Building, which is a lot closer to the courthouse.  This will make it much easier to have days like yesterday, when I sat around for two hours until the prosecutors had concluded beyond a shadow of doubt that they indeed had no idea in the world where my client's file was; two weeks from now, I can tell them at 9:30 to give me a buzz when they find it, and then go back to my office and engage in more productive labor, which, given the nature of criminal pretrials any more, would include anything short of checking my hands for incipient signs of liver spots.

At any rate, assuming the responsibilities involved in moving an office of six lawyers tends to be a little like herding cats, so I'm not going to have as much time for blogging next week.  The newly-designed site should be ready to go sometime next week, too, so after Labor Day we'll be back to a normal schedule, in new digs, both in real life and here on the 'Net.


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