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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Legal Ethics, California-Style

Here’s an incident from the epic litigation over the sex.com domain name, as described in Kieren McCarthy’s juicy book of the same name. To jazz up the story for the Prawfs audience, I’ve loosely recast it in the form of an MPRE question:

Lawyer L represents Client C under a standard hourly billing agreement in a suit to recover stolen property with a value of approximately fifty million dollars. After an adverse ruling by the trial judge, C and L purchase a large quantity of cocaine and consume it together. While they are both high, C reveals to L that he lacks the financial resources to pay for an appeal. L responds by drawing up a contingent-fee arrangement, under which L is to receive a 15% ownership interest in the property if it is recovered. C and L sign the agreement, and then both pass out. Which of the Model Rules has L violated?

In an ordinary lawsuit, this would be remarkable enough. In the sex.com suit, it doesn’t even make the top ten list of “most unethical conduct by a lawyer or party.” The book may be a bit frustrating for the legal maven (McCarthy is a non-lawyer and it shows), but the story it tells is mind-boggling.

Posted by James Grimmelmann on August 1, 2007 at 11:38 AM in Books | Permalink


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