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After the Bar

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The Role of Ethics When Serving as an Expert or Legal Pundit

Eric Monzo


  • As you progress in your legal career, speaking opportunities may arise, allowing you to become a so-called expert or legal pundit on a topic. Ethics plays a large role in how you conduct yourself as an expert.
  • To establish yourself as an expert, consider serving on an ethics commission or actively participating in legal organizations.
The Role of Ethics When Serving as an Expert or Legal Pundit

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Ethics are moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or activity. Lawyers are expected to possess the utmost ethical behavior—trusted by clients, colleagues, and courts. To that end, we agree to abide by the rules of professional responsibility, a set of special standards, regulations, and conduct for attorneys. So, how does an attorney set herself apart on a legal topic? Those ethical duties do not fall away; rather, they get intensified.

As you progress in your legal career, speaking opportunities may arise, allowing you to become a so-called expert or legal pundit on a topic. I have been fortunate enough to gain that experience as a corporate restructuring lawyer practicing in Delaware, the corporate capital of the United States. Below is a summary of my rise to “punditdom” and how ethics has played in it.

Becoming a Legal Pundit

Over the last few years, with the creation and rise of digital currency and blockchain technology, I have become a legal pundit, so to speak, on cryptocurrency issues in the restructuring context. That did not happen overnight.

First, I was fortunate to be asked to serve on my local government’s ethics commission, which was organized to address potential and actual ethical violations at the municipality level. This helped me establish a general name for myself as someone within my local community willing to use my legal education and ability to address thorny issues through discussion, argument, and written decisions.

As a restructuring professional, I worked diligently to build my reputation in the restructuring community by joining well-established organizations, such as the American Bar Association (ABA), American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI), and Turnaround Management Association. I began attending events, volunteering to serve, and chairing committees. In 2018, I was recognized for my work by winning the ABA’s Kathryn R. Heidt Memorial Award. Then, I was selected to serve in leadership roles within the organizations I had been volunteering with (director for the ABI and chair of the Chapter 11 Subcommittee of the Business Bankruptcy Section of the ABA). The experience and connections set me up to be viewed as a legal pundit on cryptocurrency issues.

Identifying an Area of Expertise

The timing for me to move into this role clicked right into place. Up to that point, companies like FTX, BlockFi, and Celsius were growing exponentially. Indeed, the market capitalization of the global cryptocurrency market reached its current peak at over $2.9 trillion in November 2021. Even though the market surrounding digital currency was on a meteoric rise, restructuring professionals had their eyes on the companies to be prepared to move quickly if and when the market took a turn that would require our services. Then, in the summer of 2022, the industry started to show stress publicly, and the Chapter 11 cases started to file. Then, in late 2022, FTX filed for bankruptcy protection while others followed suit.

Those cases presented interesting issues in the legal community. Congress had not issued official legislation regarding cryptocurrency, but various regulatory agencies began to develop ways to bring cryptocurrency under their regulatory purview.

Speaking and Writing Engagements

In early 2022, I proposed to discuss cryptocurrency and restructuring issues as part of planning a regional restructuring conference. By the time the conference in the summer panel had been set, I was asked to moderate one of the first panels to discuss the proposed issues. Following this early panel, I was asked to write on the topic, identifying the issues that were manifesting in cases. Opportunities like this did not previously come along often, but after making myself known in the area of crypto and blockchain, I found I was invited more and more often to speak and write. The punditdom had come, but by this point, I felt ready. I often volunteered these activities with my own time, but it certainly paid off.

Representing Clients in the Same Area of Law

As each new crypto entity would file bankruptcy, interested parties sought representation. My networking through different organizations, speaking opportunities, and published views on the topic led me to gain clients in the space. By the end of 2023, I was involved in multiple cryptocurrency bankruptcy proceedings. Through these representations, I became aware of the lingo and could speak the same proverbial language as prospective and current clients.

Ethical Issues as a Legal Pundit

Leveraging all the steps it took to be considered a pundit, I have put myself in a position where I may be viewed as a “legal pundit” in the ever-evolving area of cryptocurrency. I am often asked to discuss market forecasting, open points of law that often arise in my cases, and issues on the legislative level. However, I remain mindful of my duties, including the duty of confidentiality. Ethics in the public arena are intensified when speaking on issues facing clients—in high-stakes and often high-profile cases. I am careful of the ethical lines that exist in those situations and am duty-bound to honor them. I strive to maintain the trust and confidence of my clients, judges, and my peers.

For example, if people ask questions about their particular circumstances, I ask them to contact me directly for a consultation, as I do not want to form an attorney-client relationship by answering questions specifically. I make sure not to disclose specific facts of cases or the names of my clients when I provide representative examples of the cases I am involved in. I speak generally and provide broad-brush views on legal issues and my opinions. I put my client’s needs first, and speaking in generalities is helpful when I can speak to the issues that clients and the legal community face in an issue-focused way.

Becoming well-known for any topic is not a short road, but it is a worthwhile one. Some of the trick to becoming a pundit may be getting lucky with timing or volunteering and getting involved early. Maintaining a critical focus and ethical mind, the road to punditdom is open to anyone seeking it.