Monthly Archives: January 2012

Lawyer Groupons

A recent ethical opinion from New York, citing an earlier South Carolina Ethical Opinion, allows lawyers to offer group discounts on legal services through “deal of the day” or “group coupon” websites, with some caveats. The attorney must not use advertising that is misleading or deceptive, must check for conflicts, and must be competent to undertake the matter. “If the lawyer is unable to provide the offered service due to a conflict or competence issue, the lawyer must give the coupon buyer a full refund. If the coupon buyer terminates the representation, the buyer is entitled to a refund subject to the lawyer’s quantum meruit claim.”  The main concern in the SC Ethics Opinion was the issue of fee-splitting with a non-lawyer.  The opinion stated that a group coupon situation was not prohibited because it did not interfere with the “lawyer’s professional independence of judgment.” However, lawyers were cautioned that other ethical concerns, such as advertising, competence, reasonableness of the fee, and conflicts of interest could be raised.

 

Fifth Amendment meets the digital world

A federal district court in Colorado is considering whether it can force a defendant to disclose the password to her computer, on which the prosecutors say is essential evidence against her. The defendant is asserting that forced disclosure of the password violates her right, under the 5th Amendment, not to incriminate herself. ”  Is a computer password like a key to a lockbox, as the government argues? Or is it akin to a combination to a safe, as [the defendant's] attorneys say?” The judge’s ruling is expected soon. Read more here.