The Top 10 Most Popular NWSidebar Articles in 2019

2019 comic art

NWSidebar is the type of place where on any given day you’re as likely to find a laboriously detailed breakdown on changes to the Rules of Professional Conduct, a heart-wrenching personal essay, or the latest news from the WSBA.

As the hub for voices of Washington’s legal community, the content on this blog is as varied as WSBA members themselves. In 2019, we published more than 55,000 words—enough content to fill the pages of The Great Gatsby, and then some—written by almost 50 authors. Also this year, NWSidebar was one of two WSBA publications to receive top honors at the national level, joining NWLawyer to take first place in the 2019 National Association of Bar Executives’ Luminary Awards.

So yeah, there was a lot going on. To give a quick taste of all that happened, here are 10 articles that you, the readers, viewed more than any others published this year.

#10: 4 Reasons Young Lawyers Should Consider Going Solo by Mark Tyson

A lawyer outside his law office.

It’s scary to go it alone, especially as a lawyer, and especially as a relatively new lawyer. But Mark Tyson shares what drove him to leave a Seattle firm and strike out on his own.

“Going solo, in contrast, affords an opportunity to embed your values into the model you build. … Success isn’t guaranteed and you’ll do battle with insecurity every day. But the satisfaction to be found in building something that’s your own is hard to top.”

#9: New Marijuana-Related Amendments to Rules of Professional Conduct by Mark Fucile

Legal marijuana sign in Seattle's Belltown neighborhood.

Marijuana is legal … sort of. While the average of-age Washingtonian is mostly free to walk into a licensed recreational marijuana shop or even start their own, lawyers bound by the Rules of Professional Conduct may rightly hesitate before offering legal advice in an area of the law that remains illegal at the federal level.

“The Washington Supreme Court resolved this tension in 2014 with a new Comment 18 to RPC 1.2 that permitted lawyer assistance to state-approved marijuana businesses ‘[a]t least until there is a subsequent change of federal enforcement policy,’” explained Mark Fucile, who writes frequently on ethics for both NWSidebar and NWLawyer.

#8: Leading Criminal Justice Reform with LEAD in the November NWLawyer by WSBA Staff

Cover of November 2019 NWLawyer with Lisa Daugaard

Only 20 Washingtonians and just one WSBA member have received the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship grant, aka the “genius grant.” This peek at the November 2019 issue of NWLawyer highlights Lisa Daugaard, who received the coveted honor for founding the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program.

“This is a small cohort of people being recognized for work that is being done by an enormous number of people,” Daugaard told NWLawyer. “… There are so many genuine geniuses walking around out there who don’t get the resources that could catapult their work to a level of recognition and influence that they deserve.”

#7: UPDATE: Proposed Ethics CLE Requirements Headed to Supreme Court by WSBA Staff

Temple of Justice

Receiving more responses than any similar proposal in recent WSBA history, the Washington Supreme Court Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) Board proposed changes to mandated legal education training in the area of ethics. Throughout the year, NWSidebar has continued to provide updates with the latest news about the proposal.

“Everyone has biases; it is part of being human,” MCLE Board Member Asia Wright told NWSidebar. “Members do not have to change their biases, just be educated about how biases impact the practice of law and the legal system.”

#6: What Washington’s New Law on Noncompete Agreements Means for Physicians by Luke Campbell

A doctor reviews a document with his lawyer.

A new Washington law passed in 2019 loosened up historically restrictive noncompete agreements by employers. One sector where the change is having significant impact is in healthcare.

“The new law imposes a potentially sizeable cost for overly broad restrictions,” explained Luke Campbell, who specializes in employment law for health-care providers.

#5: My Journey from Real Estate Law to Real Estate Sales by Scott Dickinson

People change—even lawyers. Still, it can be distressing to realize that, after taking on heaps of debt for three years of intense legal education, you might want to do something else. A self-described “recovering” attorney, Scott Dickinson, explained what led him to make a career shift and how he did it.

“Coming to the decision to pivot away from the practice of law wasn’t made lightly, nor on a whim; it was made after careful thought and deliberation with my husband and myself.”

#4: Washington Supreme Court Announces Strict Liability for Sexual Harassment by Molly Powell

Is an employer liable if an employee sexually harasses a member of the public? According to the Washington Supreme Court, the answer is an emphatic yes. U.S. Equal Employment Commission Administrative Judge explained the implications of the Court’s zero-tolerance approach.

“At a minimum, this zero-tolerance stance toward sexual harassment should cause proprietors of places of public accommodation to re-evaluate their efforts to eradicate harassment and discrimination through robust anti-harassment policies, quality training, and supervision.”

#3: ‘Deepfakes’: A New Challenge for Trial Courts by Riana Pfefferkorn

Marionettes on video screen

In this sneak peek at the lead story of the tech-themed September issue of NWLawyer, Riana Pfefferkorn, a WSBA member and Associate Director of Surveillance and Cybersecurity at Stanford, discussed the new challenges in a world where video evidence can be easily and convincingly fabricated.

“In the not-too-distant future, litigators will have to get creative in addressing these challenges, navigate ethical pitfalls, and manage the doubts jurors will have about trusting what’s real.”

#2: Why I Want to Be a Lawyer—A Fat, White-Passing Womxn of Color and the Law by Sierra Suafoa-McClain

Sierra Suafoa McClain

Taking us on a journey from a traumatic childhood event to the prospect of attending law school and entering the legal profession, former WSBA diversity work-study intern Sierra Suafoa-McClain provided her unique perspective on the profession as someone with many intersecting, suppressed identities.

“We can change the legal field to reflect the world we want to see, a world that includes more people like us so future students like me won’t have to worry about whether they have a place in law,” wrote Suafoa-McClain, who is currently wrapping up her first semester in law school.

#1: Appeals Court Rejects Application of Corporate Attorney-Client Privilege for ‘Functional Employees’ by Mark Fucile

Law books and a phrenology head

If ever there was a better showcase for the variety of voices on NWSidebar, it’s that the two most-read blogs in 2019 were an intensely personal rally cry against injustice, and a deeply technical analysis of corporate attorney-client privilege to “functional employees.” In the latter, Mark Fucile once again provides the latest must-know information on the laws of lawyering.

“Given the marked shift in many businesses today away from the traditional employer-employee model to alternatives ranging from consultants to contractors, the Hermanson majority’s refusal to include ‘functional employees’ within corporate privilege may reverberate far beyond the narrow confines of medical malpractice.”