Popular Threads - October 2019

2019 Resume and Cover Letter Dos and Don’ts

I haven't needed a resume since 1993. All jobs since have been negotiations with people I already knew. I am applying for a job in which I need a resume. I¹ve got 29 years of job experience at various places, so that would be a long list. What do you want to see on resume now if you look at them?

In your case I think you need to tailor the resume to the job requirements as best you know them. If you're applying for litigation position, focus on whatever litigation you've done; i.e., handled complex business litigation in David vs. Goliath Corporation including 27 depositions, review of 60000 pages of documents, whatever. Handled 45 jury trials. Or criminal; was first chair in five first degree murder trials; or whatever. 

In other words, if you can figure out what they’re looking for, focus your resume so that they say "yeah, this is the guy we're looking for".

Ronald Jones, Florida

In other words, the entire "resume" game is a shameful sham, only most folks haven't noticed.

I will say, a resume isn't a CV, and all reports I've seen suggest a single sheet wins every time. Relevant history, relevant education, relevant professional affiliations/activities, one sheet.

Robert Thomas Hayes Link, California

Time has moved on and so have forms of resumes.

I suggest you compose a resume based on skills instead of job titles; negotiations, specifying business fields, years of experience.

Writing skills, particularly if you have any appellate wins, I would list the most important. Describe management skills acquired conducting a law practice.

You should include buzz words both to show knowledge of fields and because many companies run resumes through software ranking resumes based on meeting job requirements.

Further, you should compose the resume using Microsoft Word so the resume is accurately scanned by the business' software.

Richard Schmitt, District of Columbia

I receive resumes for office administrative help which now differ from prior resumes in that some of these resumes have 2 columns, rather than just one column all the way across. I don't like that new style, but what do I know?

I look for Education at the top, and Work Experience below that, and anything else at the bottom. But, again, that is for the positions I seek to fill and what do I know?

Roger Rosen, California

This is not for a "typical" legal resume, but I like the impactful format discussed in the Career Tools podcasts - they have several resume podcasts.

I was taught in business school to only use a 1-page resume unless you're a senior executive. I've always done this. However, when I was in house, every candidate that my GC chose to interview for mid-level/junior roles had 2-3 pages. This goes against Robert's statement that "a resume is not a CV."

I'd do everything you can to bypass the resume as a screening tool process, which in my opinion is broken. Find contacts or introductions on LinkedIn, find publicly listed emails and reach out. Set up coffees or phone calls.

Get an internal referral.

Jarrett Silver

Client Wants Picture of Settlement Check


I settled a personal injury case for a client. The check just came from Allstate. The client is demanding that I take a picture of the check and send it to her. In all of my years of doing PI work, I’ve never had anybody ask for that before. My concern is that my clients going to take this picture and do a mobile deposit with it. Is there anything else I should be concerned about? I really am not a huge fan of sending her a picture of the settlement check.

Why not put a piece of paper that says "non-negotiable" over the check, especially over the bank routing numbers. That way the client can see it, but not deposit it.

Frank Kautz, Massachusetts

Ok, thanks. I hadn’t thought about that.

Jonathan Stein, California

Or just scan a B&W copy of the check and email a pdf of that perhaps? With electronic deposits, many banks have a maximum $ amount that they will allow for e-deposits. My own bank won't let me do e-deposits of checks >$500 for instance, so I'd imagine a large settlement check would prohibit that potential scenario from being a problem for you.

Seth Combs, Kentucky

I would be upfront and say you do not provide copies of checks based upon advice about law firm procedures.

Add that s/he should come to your office to sign the check.

Richard P Schmitt, District of Columbia

My bank will do e-deposits in any amount, but I have to send a picture of both sides, showing my endorsement on the back. 

Kevin Grierson, Virginia

My bank used to allow considerably larger than that, perhaps up to $5,000. I don't use remote deposit anymore, because the main place it helped was for the trust account, which isn't accessible from the ATM, but remote deposit there is no longer available. Since the ATMs now scan and confirm the checks deposited, they seem to get processed faster if I can't make it to the drive-through.

Were it me, I'd copy the back of the check AFTER endorsing it for deposit to my trust account and cut it out. I would then take a picture or make a copy of the front and back TOGETHER, with the copy of the back at least partially obscuring the routing/transit and account numbers on the face, "as if by accident," as though you'd laid them side-by-side and one slipped a bit...

Richard J. Rutledge, Jr., North Carolina

I have not looked but would not be surprised if there are not websites which sell copies of check back sides for all the US insurance companies.

Richard P Schmitt

Take a partial photo, without the account numbers or signature showing?

Meg Tebo, Illinois

I don't think you are required to comply with this request in such a way that may risk something going wrong. I think you could follow the advice of others, to take a photo of some portion of the check but not enough to allow the client or someone else to try to cash it.

Roger Rosen, California

Who is named as payee on the check? If you want to accommodate client and have the PDF tools, create PDF from picture then add “non-negotiable copy” as a watermark and then take a picture of the edited PDF to send to client.

Duke Drouillard, Nebraska

Did you ask her why?

Bobby Lott

Just say "no."

"I'm sorry, but it is against firm policies to text photos of checks. Would you like to schedule an appointment to come in and review your case and the associated settlement?"

Andrew Wentzell, Florida

Not sure why they need to see it since under California law the insurance company will mail them a letter saying how much the check is for and who its made out to.

David Seto, California

Your bank does e-deposits into IOLA accounts? Mine won't. I kind of appreciate that!

Jeena R. Belil, New York

I like Andrew Wentzell's response. Slightly different scenario: I once had an obstinate client that fired me (as is always the client's right) and demanded I return his retainer funds even though the Court hadn't entered the withdrawal Order yet. Once the Order was entered, I sent him a closing statement with the remaining balance of the trust funds. He then altered that same check and e-deposited it into multiple accounts. He altered the image to show the names of family members in the payee line. It was a nightmare scenario. Luckily, it all got worked out and the money was returned. I did have to file a police report.

Ryan Young, Virginia

This is why I use a bounce account. it's an extra account I bounce money into or out of. this way no client will have the account number of the main trust account.

Michael Huerta

Can you explain this more? I have never heard of it. How do you get money from trust account to client without it becoming your funds?

Mitchell P. Goldstein, Virginia

It's a second trust account

Michael Huerta

Lawyers have a duty to keep the client informed about the matter. Some part of the settlement check is the client's property. In my opinion, a lawyer cannot justify refusing the client's request for a copy of the settlement check, although the lawyer should redact all but the last 4 digits of the maker's account number.

If my lawyer refused to show me the settlement check for my case, I would be very suspicious.

Steven Finell, California

Since this was my topic, I went and talked to my branch manager. I then called a branch manager who I know at a different bank. They both said the same thing:

Do NOT send a picture of a check to anyone. It can be used for a mobile deposit. Thus, even if the check says Steven Finnell and COTE, either person could mobile deposit a picture of the check into their account.

Hence, I ended up scanning the check, redacting the routing number and account number, and then sending it as a black and white PDF to the client.

Since her further requests, I am sure she is up to something. I don't quite know what it is, nor do I care, that much.

Jonathan Stein

I've never heard it called that! I call it my ancillary account. It is where things go in, and I transfer TO my operating account but that's it. I put it in place over a decade ago when a fellow Virtual Assistant had a client -- a year AFTER the services had been rendered -- decide they weren't happy and yep... credit card company went right into her operating account and removed the full 5 figure retainer ... until their investigation could be concluded. We all know how those go! Note, it is also why my personal consulting clients pay via check. I've had more than one over the years not do what THEY were supposed to -- and had they paid with a cc, bet they woulda. With a check... nope. <g>

Andrea Cannavina, nope notta lawyer

Yes, the lawyer does have certain duties to their client. But nowhere have I seen that a lawyer has a duty to send a pic of the settlement check to their client when so requested. If they come in to the office, they can see the check and touch it and smell it (if they so choose) without any concern for virtual theft or other nefarious shenanigans.

I see no conflict between the ethical rules and asking a client to come in to see the check. I mean, that's how it was done for decades prior to this technology, right?

Andrew Wentzell

Can you deposit it into your trust account and then send her a copy marked "Deposited - non-negotiable?" I also like the idea of blacking out the routing/account numbers

Deena L. Buchanan, New Mexico

Firm Financing


My firm is in a crossroad. For eight years I practiced with a firm. I was basically autonomous, but other attorneys handled the business and marketing side of things (or didn't, which is another story.) Two years ago, I went truly solo and entered an office share with two other attorneys who were in the process of retiring and winding down their practices. One of the two has completely retired and the second just went back to FL for the rest of the year with the intention of formally closing up shop when he returns to IL after Christmas.

All of a sudden, I'm physically alone in the space I'm using and I need to make some adjustments. I'm at the courthouse a fair amount and I know of at least two times I've lost business because someone was looking for me and ended up at a different firm in the building.

I need to move into a new (smaller / cheaper / not sharing a building with the firm below me) space. I need to hire a full-time staff so that I'm not missing clients and can return messages faster. With the two attorneys retiring my phone rings plenty, but I'm not handling the customer service side of things as well as I'd like because I'm busy in court or otherwise working and don't have the staff to field it for me.

The downside to all of this, however, is I don't have the cashflow right now to cover these investments. I think I'm poised for revenues to increase if I can capitalize on two new client bases, but that's not guaranteed if I don't get some of these issues addressed.

What have your experiences been with business loans? I haven't run the budget numbers yet, but I'm thinking a $100k loan has about a $500/month payment. I'd take a modest amount of it to get a decent space and the rest would cover the hiring of a new assistant and allow me to focus for a month or two on marketing and the business side of things before sending out the formal announcement attorney #2 is retiring. I also have the bonus that I just cancelled my WealthCounsel subscription ($500/month) and a smaller office should save me about $300/month in rent. After a year I can re-assess and if my revenue has picked up enough pay as much of the balance off with the unspent loan as I can and take care of the difference with the sustained revenue increase.

This is the side of things I wish they taught you in law school...

Thanks for the advice!

My two cents---1) hire a virtual receptionist service (CallRuby, etc.) to handle the calls 2) Think about whether you really need an office---if not, work with a co-working/temp office space you can use as needed.

Borrow $100K? Nope.

Keep us posted.

Dave Rakowski, Pennsylvania

I think I do need the physical space and unfortunately there aren't any co-working spaces in my city of 40k. It's actually something my wife and I have considered starting but I don't think I have the capacity to add one more thing like that to my plate.

I'm definitely considering the virtual receptionist. I've looked at their advertised pricing, but don't have any clue what my usage would be. Is a typical call 3 minutes? 10?

Andrew O. Mays, Illinois

You should watch this - in the words of Billionaire Mark Cuban:

Only Morons Start a Business on a Loan


Don't borrow money for your firm. Very bad idea. Use google voice to have calls transferred to your cell phone so you don't miss them. Hire a virtual receptionist to field calls if you have to. I started out with CallRuby.

There's never been a better time to start a business now. Thanks to technology and virtual and cloud services, you can build up a business infrastructure very quickly and, more importantly, cheaply.

Eugene Lee, California

Hey Andrew...I hear ya re: office space. Sounds like you should probably get out of your current building though.

All the virtual reception services will work with you on call time---they do this for hundreds of businesses so would know better than you or I. Plus they have free trials. But even if your phone goes nuts it's still way cheaper than hiring someone.

Take your time to think this through---lots of experienced folks here on the list, and they'll no doubt have great ideas on what to do. As a dyed in the wool cheapskate, the idea of borrowing $100K that doesn't end with me owing a building literally made me say "NOOOOO" out loud ;)

Dave Rakowski

I’d echo what the others have said about a virtual receptionist. It’s also hard to imagine a bank giving you a loan for operating expenses if you don’t have the cash flow to cover them now unless you have equity elsewhere that you can pledge. And unless you plan on mortgaging a house, I don’t think your idea of a monthly payment is realistic—a 100,000 loan at 5% interest paid back over 10 years will cost you over $1K per month.

Kevin Grierson, Virginia

If you are just seeking advice on the business aspects you might consider a consultation with the Small Business Administration or with SCORE (Service Corp of Retired Executives).

Sally Stenger, Georgia

For an answering service, I recommend CBSI. Cheaper and better service than Ruby. It does lack the bells and whistles (IIRC, Ruby had a phone app and slick user interface), but they do the job perfectly.

No long-term contract. Pause or cancel service anytime.

I have no affiliation, and they were recommended to me by Lyza Sandgren on this list.

Here is the contact person:

Becky Van Note
Director of Operations
2985 Gordy Parkway
Marietta, GA 30066
(770) 578-2274

Marshall D. Chriswell, Pennsylvania

I use Moneypenny for calls. I'm on the fence about them. As to the financing, I have a buddy attorney who dug himself into a deep hole financially doing what you are contemplating. He was certain that extra bump in capital would translate into immediate new business. It didn't and he's still paying for the loan many years later.

Ryan Young, Virginia

Borrowing money should be avoided if possible. As a first step get a receptionist, or use a service to answer the phone. I mention the receptionist first because you need someone to be there when you are not if part of the traffic is walk-in.

Darrell G. Stewart, Texas

I got a SBA loan when I started out, but upon reflecting some of that was actually more for household income and security rather than actual costs.

I was going out on my own after NO prior solo experience and the loan was based on household income, not my profit projections/revenue history. I didn't have a gaggle of clients or serious overhead. It was good to have, but I could have survived without it. The best benefit of a loan was that I became good friends with the folks at my bank.

I have been solo for a decade now, I went from a monthly subleasing an executive office, to renting the entire suite, I have cobbled together furniture from things from home, other folks closing their offices, generic art and family photos. Other than things consumed by use, I cannot remember the last time I "invested" in anything for my office outside of technology and some marketing. I invest in technology because we have to and in marketing, because I hate it myself and am not good at some aspects of building out that aspect of my public front. Other than things you cannot handle yourself, big money shouldn't be necessary. I think the same philosophy goes to other aspects of a solo practice as well. Staff can be a nightmare (I've had 11 over the course of the years) and given the ability of technology, it is not as necessary. I have someone (my S.O.) come in for some filing and basic stuff (things I cannot stand to do myself), but having a warm butt in the seat 40 hours a week isn't for my practice. Is it really for yours? You are facing a major disruption but think of what you "have to" have versus what you "used to" have.

We all lose clients, or prospects, for a variety of reasons and before you blame the lack of staff to that, think about how many have been lost to an attorney who suggested a result the Client would rather hear, someone who was cheaper, someone who was a better personality fit for the client (ethnic, religious, or other concerns that were important to the client).

Control your overhead and take the money saved from rent (or whatever) and build up your slush fund. Use that for gaging what your firm can afford.

Drew Winghart, California

Ditto love their services. I hire independent lawyers or paralegals as needed.

I would not borrow money.

Martha Jo Patterson, California

Can you just get new office mates who may be able to provide you with some income so you can hire or share staff?

I would consider ways to leverage your current situation, but would not take a loan. The interest on commercial loans that are not secured by real estate can be very high.

Deena L. Buchanan, New Mexico

Law Firm Stationery

Hi Solos:

I am in the market for law firm envelopes, letterhead, business cards, flat thank you cards, etc.

In the past I have used two different vendors (business cards and thank you notes letterpress), once since has gone under.

Any great quality online vendor recommendations? I’d also like mailing labels.

I used Crane for my business cards, and now I plan on using them for everything else as well. https://www.crane.com/business

Sam Alexander, Florida

I've used All-State Legal for many years.

Deb Matthews, Virginia

I get my business cards from VistaPrint. I get my will envelopes, document envelopes, and will covers from Blumberg.

I use blank linen bond paper from Office Depot for letterhead; I laser print my header, logo, etc. Since I use Stamps.com, I use blank envelopes from Office Depot and print the return address, etc. on the laser printer.

I buy blank Thank You cards from Office Depot, CVS, and Target.

Richard J. Rutledge, Jr., North Carolina

I do pretty much the same as Rick does.

Business cards from VistaPrint.

Printing my own letterhead, envelope, logo, etc.

But each one of us has his/ her own style and you should choose whatever you like best.

Alexandra Kleinfeldt, Florida

Having been raised in the printing industry and working in it for years before becoming an attorney, you will find your best printing values from small, independent printers. Not your corner copy store because they can't buy in sufficient volumes to realize much of a savings. But, printers who have serious printing presses (at least 23" and 2 color), their own cutters, bindery equipment, etc. have the buying power to purchase paper at substantial discounts and the equipment to produce your products in house without jobbing out the work. We use Greater Georgia Printers and have been very happy. A good thing about your printing is that almost all printing jobs these days are delivered to the printer digitally and all jobs are going to ship to you. Therefore, needing a local printer is not necessary. If you can find one, great, but they are a dying breed. Therefore, the printer's location should be on minimal interest to you. 

If you have seen another company's letterhead and like the paper they use, just send a sample of it to your chosen printer and he will be able to acquire the paper you want. Same with envelopes, shipping labels, etc. 

Greater Georgia Printers
PO Box 75
Crawford, GA 30630
Tel: 1-800-828-0093
Tel: 706-743-8155
Fax: 706-743-5118

Robert "Robby" W. Hughes, Jr., Georgia

Also Tuttle Printing https://www.tuttleprinting.com/

Erik Hammarlund, Massachusetts

+1 for Tuttle. I've used them for many years.

John Varde, Illinois

+2 for Tuttle and they are a small local owned company that has been 

+doing legal forms for years and years.

John Thrasher

I go on this rant like once every year or so. I get that Vista Print is cheap. My local printer charges me about 1 cent per card more than Vista Print. So, I guess that is $5 for every $500 cards. But, there are several problems with Vista Print:

1. Vista Print isn't going to refer you clients. Your local printer is going to refer you clients. I make more money from referrals from my local printer than I pay her to print my business cards, etc....

2. Vista Print isn't going to make you a hat in 2 days because you decided you want a hat with your cool logo on it. Vista Print isn't going to make you more polos when you spill something on your polo and it can't be cleaned.

3. But, most importantly, you can't come on here and complain about Avvo or Legal Zoom or Nolo or whichever large company wants to offer legal services next, but then rave about Vista Print. Well, you can, but the argument falls flat. If you think people should hire local attorneys (and I think everyone on here agrees with that), then why shouldn't you hire local vendors?

Just think about it before you make your next order.

Jonathan G. Stein, California

I'm not real sure about VISTA PRINT being bad makes AVVO or Legal Zoom bad. That said, a return to shopping locally when it makes economic sense is a good thing.

Robert "Robby" W. Hughes, Jr.

Marking Up Fees


When you hire a contract attorney, can the responsible attorney mark up the fees? Let's say you hire an attorney to draft a motion. You pay that attorney $100 per hour to do the work. The attorney drafts it in 2 hours.

So you pay $200.

Your hourly rate is $200 per hour. Do you bill the client $400 or do you bill the client $200?

What does your fee agreement say?

Miriam N. Jacobson, Pennsylvania

There are two ABA ethics opinions about marking up the work of a contract lawyer. I do not have the numbers in mind but I will dig them up later this evening. The client has to consent to the involvement of the contract lawyer, and the lawyer must not bill the lawyer's fees as a cost, but the lawyer does not have to tell the client the amount of the markup. The lawyer must, however, supervise the work, if mem'ry serves.

L. Maxwell Taylor, Vermont

I don't see this covered under the new CA Rules of Professional Conduct [esp. rule 1.5 and 1.5.1]. I was under the impression that the lawyer must disclose that he may use lawyers from outside the firm and what the billing rate(s) will be for such outside lawyers, but I don't see that in writing in the CA RPC. But see the following:

*Payments to contract lawyers (nonemployees):* Except as noted below (¶5:469 <https://1.next.westlaw.com/Link/Document/FullText?findType=Y&serNum=0432652596&pubNum=117001&originatingDoc=I3c380abf4bf311e584909c6f79ff0614&refType=TS&docFamilyGuid=Icbba4b554bf611e5a1e0e8df9796fee7&fi=co_pp_sp_117001_5%3a469&originationContext=document&transitionType=DocumentItem&contextData=(sc.Search)#co_pp_sp_117001_5:469>),

CRPC 1.5.1(a) (formerly CRPC 2-200(A) <https://1.next.westlaw.com/Link/Document/FullText?findType=L&pubNum=1003711&cite=CASTRPCR2-200&originatingDoc=I3c380abf4bf311e584909c6f79ff0614&refType=LQ&originationContext=document&transitionType=DocumentItem&contextData=(sc.Search)>) applies where a *nonemployee* contract lawyer (i.e., independent contractor) receives a portion of fees paid by the client to the law firm for legal services. [Cal. State Bar Form.Opn. 1994-138 (decided under former rule)] Whether a particular lawyer who is not a partner or shareholder in the law firm is an “employee” or independent contractor is a legal question. [*Sims v. Charness* (2001) 86 CA4th 884, 890-891, 103 CR2d 619, 622-623 <https://1.next.westlaw.com/Link/Document/FullText?findType=Y&serNum=2001107469&pubNum=0003484&originatingDoc=I3c380abf4bf311e584909c6f79ff0614&refType=RP&fi=co_pp_sp_3484_622&originationContext=document&transitionType=DocumentItem&contextData=(sc.Search)#co_pp_sp_3484_622> (disapproved on other grounds in *Chambers v. Kay* (2002) 29 C4th 142, 126 CR2d 536 <https://1.next.westlaw.com/Link/Document/FullText?findType=Y&serNum=2002693968&pubNum=0003484&originatingDoc=I3c380abf4bf311e584909c6f79ff0614&refType=RP&originationContext=document&transitionType=DocumentItem&contextData=(sc.Search)>); see also Cal. State Bar Form.Opn. 1994-138; Los Angeles Bar Ass'n Form.Opn.473 (1993)]

*Exception:* The fee division rule is not violated where:

- • the amount paid to the outside lawyer is *compensation for work performed* and must be paid whether or not the firm is paid by the client;

- • the amount paid is *not based on fees paid or payable* to the firm by the client; and

- • the amount paid is not based on a percentage of the client's recovery. [Cal. State Bar Form.Opn. 1994-138; *Chambers v. Kay*, supra, 29 C4th at 154-155, 126 CR2d at 546-547 <https://1.next.westlaw.com/Link/Document/FullText?findType=Y&serNum=2002693968&pubNum=0003484&originatingDoc=I3c380abf4bf311e584909c6f79ff0614&refType=RP&fi=co_pp_sp_3484_546&originationContext=document&transitionType=DocumentItem&contextData=(sc.Search)#co_pp_sp_3484_546>; CRPC 1.5.1(a) (eff. 11/1/18)]

2) Application

Attorneys A and B share office space and facilities but have separate law practices.

Attorney B agrees to serve as co-counsel to Attorney A representing Client in Lawsuit. Attorney A orally promises Attorney B a percentage of any recovery obtained in Lawsuit.

Both Attorneys appear as co-counsel and Attorney B performs work under Attorney A's supervision.

Attorney A and Client remove Attorney B from Lawsuit prior to trial.

Attorney A confirms in writing that Attorney B will receive a percentage of recovery from Lawsuit.

Attorney A is successful and obtains a sizable judgment for Client in Lawsuit. Attorney A does not pay Attorney B.

Attorney B cannot enforce the fee-sharing agreement with Attorney A, because Client consent was not obtained as required by former CRPC 2-200(A) (now CRPC 1.5.1(a)). [*Chambers v. Kay*, supra, 29 C4th at 156, 126 CR2d at 547-548 <https://1.next.westlaw.com/Link/Document/FullText?findType=Y&serNum=2002693968&pubNum=0003484&originatingDoc=I3c380abf4bf311e584909c6f79ff0614&refType=RP&fi=co_pp_sp_3484_547&originationContext=document&transitionType=DocumentItem&contextData=(sc.Search)#co_pp_sp_3484_547>]

Law Firm retains Contract Lawyer on a temporary basis to assist on specific matters for one or more of Law Firm's clients. Contract Lawyer has no other formal relationship with Law Firm or its clients. Law Firm pays Contract Lawyer directly and includes Contract Lawyer's time in its periodic billings to clients.

Law Firm must comply with the fee division requirements if (i) Law Firm is not obligated to pay for Contract Lawyer's services if the fees for such services are not charged to or paid by Law Firm's clients; (ii) the amount paid to Contract Lawyer is negotiated or based on fees paid to Law Firm by client; or (iii) Contract Lawyer is entitled to a percentage of the fee paid by the client to Law Firm. [Cal. State Bar Form.Opn. 1994-138; ABA Form.Opn. 88-356 (temporary lawyers); see also ABA Form.Opn. 00-420 (surcharging client for amounts paid to contract attorney),.

Roger Rosen, California

One of the two opinions I had in mind was 00-420: http://www.appealsandbriefs.com/app/download/5843496804/ABA+Formal+Opinion+00-420.pdf

Max Taylor

The best answer is you charge it is a pass-through just like you do for any other vendor related work or costs like recording or expert witness fees. 

Whether there is a solid rule on this in your jurisdiction are not, the best way to handle ethical problems is to keep them far, far away. Every single moment you think about an ethical issue is a moment you can't bill a client for real work. 

Don't be stupid. When you get the slightest whiff that there might be an ethics concern, or a conflict of interest, or even the appearance thereof, simply lace up your running shoes and get the hell out of there.

Art Macomber, Idaho

If either is in Texas (or perhaps even licensed in Texas), no. Unless you can plausibly argue they are "in the firm." I can get those opinions if you need them.

Tim Ackermann, Texas

Max’s recitation conforms with my understanding

Fredric Gruder

OK, same general facts, but what if we replace contract attorney with contract paralegal? I see many remote paralegals advertised. I cannot find anything in the Virginia rules that addresses this. I'm just gauging the general consensus.

Ryan Young, Virginia

My $0.02: It's all about disclosure.

1) You can use a flat fee and do what you want.

2) You can disclose the fact that you may hire "XXX attorney" and that "their work will be billed to you at $____/hour" (or as a flat fee.)

3) You can hire the third party attorney as "of counsel" and keep it within your own firm.

4) You can raise your own hourly rates and explain that you efficiently rely on others to keep total costs reasonable.

5) You can probably disclose a markup (as a percentage, a fixed hourly rate, or a fixed dollar amount) to supervise, hire, etc.

What I think you *cannot* do is to use a standard fee agreement in which the client pays for "expenses," and then include any profit whatsoever as an "expense."

In my view, if you want to rely on a lot of people who are not in your firm, then you should not be using an hourly billing arrangement.

Erik Hammarlund, Massachusetts

As others have indicated, the answer isn’t as simple as you posed. If your question is simply “can you do it”, you should pose the question to your State counsel for bar discipline; their opinions carry the most weight. If you meant to ask “should you do it”, I tend to agree with Art. What I have done under similar circumstances is bill client at rate I was charged/negotiated, but added at my regular billing rate any time I spent with outside provider to direct/confer/edit/review services provided by contract lawyer.

Duke Drouillard, Nebraska

Maybe I was not clear.

In CA, so long as your fee agreement explains to the client that you may use lawyers from outside of your firm, states the hourly rate you will bill for such lawyer's time [or maybe the range of hourly rates you may bill], then you may bill the time spent by the outside lawyers billed to you and you can mark up the charges. That is, if the outside lawyer bills you $100/hour,to you, you may charge the client $200/hr. That is, so long as you are obligated to pay the outside lawyer whether or not the client ultimately pays you. It is really just as if the outside lawyer was an associate in your office. Otherwise [that is, if you are not obligated to pay the outside lawyer unless the client pays you] it is a "fee splitting" arrangement which requires a different disclosure and a different client consent.

There are businesses out there which provide such outside lawyers. One such business is called Law Clerk.

Roger Rosen

If I recall directly by treating the contract lawyer as an expense, you are not responsible for the work product (unless you otherwise adopt the work, such as by including it as part of your work). By billing as legal fees, you are responsible full stop. 

In many cases the responsibly difference is irrelevant— contract lawyer does research you Include in your brief, but in some cases not n[sic]

Fredric Gruder

There are also many freelance attorneys right here on the list (like me :-)) who can answer your question.

For general reference, the other (and more recent) ABA ethics opinion that addresses the use of contract lawyers is Formal Op. 08-451. You can read my analysis of the opinion at https://questionoflaw.net/2008/08/28/aba-formal-op-08-451-good-news-for-us-based-independent-contract-lawyers/

.Jon asked how much he can charge if the contract lawyer charged him $200 for two hours of work and his (Jon's) billing rate is $200. Jon will have first disclosed the use of a lawyer outside his firm, and told his client how much he would be billing the contract lawyer's time at. If the contract lawyer is extremely skilled, Jon could bill the client at or above his own rate, assuming the client agrees. In my experience, most lawyers charge less for a contract attorney's time than they charge for their own time.

A few years ago, I compiled all of the relevant ethics opinions about contract lawyers from around the country. All states that have addressed the issue allow you to mark up the contract lawyer's rate, as long as you bill the contract lawyer in the "fees" portion of your bill (where you bill your own time) rather than as an expense. I invite anyone who is curious about their state's ethics opinion to contact me offlist at Lisa@QuestionOfLaw.net, and I'll send you the opinion.

Jon's question:

When you hire a contract attorney, can the responsible attorney mark up the fees? Let's say you hire an attorney to draft a motion. You pay that attorney $100 per hour to do the work. The attorney drafts it in 2 hoursSo you pay $200.

Your hourly rate is $200 per hour. Do you bill the client $400 or do you bill the client $200?

My answer: Jon's hourly rate has nothing to do with how much he can bill the client. Let's say Jon has decided not to mark up the contract lawyer's rate. So, he charges the client $200 for the contract lawyer's work. If Jon spent an hour of his own time reviewing the contract lawyer's work, editing it, etc., he can charge an additional $200. Because he has a duty to "supervise" the contract lawyer's work, it's likely that he has spent at least some time on the project (just not as much as if he did the entire project himself).

Lisa Solomon, New York

First, in CA, you cannot treat the outside attorney's bill/invoice/cost as an expense. This is prohibited.

Second, if an outside attorney did work for your firm on Client A's matter, and later Client A sued your firm for legal malpractice, and you claimed that your firm could not be liable for the alleged malpractice because the outside attorney's bill/invoice/cost was treated by you as an expense, you would be laughed at by the judge.

Roger Rosen