Q&A: Beware of Client Discounts
Q: I gave a current client a discount on a bill because of his role in securing new clients for me. Specifically, the client asked me to do a presentation at a seminar related to his industry, and introduced me as someone he “highly recommends.” Some of the people who attended became new clients. By giving a client discount, do I run afoul of ethical rules?
A: The problem is not in-person solicitation, because the seminar attendees initiated the contact with you. However, a lawyer may not give anything of value, other than money paid for ads, to someone for recommending the lawyer’s services. Thus, it is not permissible to give a discount on a bill to a client who sends other clients to the lawyer.
Tim Pierce, State Bar Ethics Counsel
By the Numbers
The number of lawyers in the current Wisconsin Legislature, which is down from 17 in the last legislative session. A total of 10 attorneys are currently serving in the Assembly; three in the Senate.
Historically, farmers and lawyers dominated the Legislature. In 1959, for instance, 38 members of the Legislature were lawyers and 29 members were farmers.
Quotable: “It’s a Growing Problem, Literally.”
Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen in a recent USA Today article, “Mexican Criminals Plant Pot Crop in American Forests.”
Authorities seized more than 8,000 marijuana plants in Wisconsin’s Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest last August. In other pot news, Washington state and Colorado legalized recreational marijuana use in November 2012. Marijuana use is still illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act. WL
This hazy issue will be one to watch in 2013.
Out There: The Deal Breaker
Hoping to reduce legal costs, Kia Motors conducts a four-part technology audit of law firms vying for its business. Competing firms elect an associate to perform “mock tasks” to assess whether the firm effectively uses basic technology for routine tasks, according to Law Technology News. Why the technology audit?
Kia doesn’t want to pay lawyers to learn basic technology tools. Would your firm pass the test?
With flying colors!
From the Archives: Election Duel
More than 150 years ago, a winter conflict at the Capitol nearly destroyed Wisconsin’s new government; the demonstrations of 2011 pale by comparison.
Coles Bashford claimed that incumbent William Barstow had won the 1855 gubernatorial election by fraud. The candidates set up rival governments and turned Madison into an armed camp. When Bashford appealed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Barstow claimed the court had no right to interfere in executive affairs. In State ex rel. Bashford v. Barstow (1856), the court disagreed, declared Bashford the winner, and established that it had final say over what the law is in Wisconsin.
Jay Ranney, Madison lawyer and legal historian
The Supreme Court rules!
Tech Tip: Do you use Microsoft Word 2007 or 2010?
If so, you have a basic document-assembly tool at your fingertips. It’s called Quick Parts, located under the “Insert Tab” in Word. Quick Parts is a gallery where you can create, store, and find reusable pieces of content.
Create libraries of different clauses and reuse them by simply selecting the Quick Part you wish to insert.
Example: Lawyers can save clauses to use in agreements addressing different circumstances, such as representation based on hourly rates versus a flat fee.
Nerino Petro, State Bar Practice Management Advisor
Finally, a tool you don’t need your pocket protector for!
Got a Nugget to Share?
“Briefly” is compiled by State Bar legal writer Joe Forward. Send your ideas for interesting facts, trends, tips, or other bits and bytes to email@example.com.