Federal Court Enforces Arbitration Provision in Engagement Agreement

The federal district court in Seattle recently enforced an arbitration provision in a lawyer’s engagement agreement in Dodo International, Inc. v. Parker, No. C20-1116-JCC, 2021 WL 4060402 (W.D. Wash. Sept. 7, 2021) (unpublished). The lawyer had represented some of the plaintiffs in a series of business transactions that the court described as “ill-fated.” Litigation followed against both the lawyer and the counterparties.

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Federal Court Looks to Choice-of-Law Provision in Legal Malpractice Case

The federal district court in Seattle recently looked to a choice-of-law provision in an engagement agreement in denying summary judgment on the statute of limitations in a legal malpractice case. U.S. Bank, N.A. v. The Glogowski Law Firm, 2021 WL 3375942 (W.D. Wash. Aug. 3, 2021) (unpublished), involved legal malpractice claims by the plaintiff bank against the defendant law firm for work in Washington and Oregon. A choice-of-law provision in the engagement agreement involved, however, designated Minnesota law as controlling because the bank is headquartered there.

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Federal Court Looks at Prospective Client Rule

The federal district court in Seattle recently discussed the prospective client rule—RPC 1.18—in denying a motion to disqualify a law firm. Collins v. Nova Association Management Partners LLC, No. C20-1206-JCC, 2021 WL 2184879 (W.D. Wash. May 28, 2021) (unpublished), involved Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and related claims by a condominium unit owner against his owners association and its management company.

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Court of Appeals Voids Fee-Sharing Agreement

Division I of the Washington Court of Appeals recently refused to enforce a fee-sharing agreement between two plaintiffs’ lawyers because the arrangement had not been confirmed in writing with the client as required by RPC 1.5(e)(1)(ii). Kayshel v. Chae, __ Wn. App.2d __, 483 P.3d 1285 (2021), involved an individual employment discrimination claim and a separate wage class action. The attorney who was retained initially by the client—the claimant in the individual case and the then-potential class representative in the class action—later associated another lawyer in the class action. The two lawyers eventually agreed on a fee split in percentage terms. They wrote the agreement by hand over breakfast and later confirmed the terms between themselves by email. Although the second lawyer related that he had received the client’s oral consent in a telephone call, the client was never presented with the written agreement.

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Deputy testifies in court

The History and Mechanics of Qualified Immunity and Police Accountability

Among the many issues at the center of debates over police-involved killings, particularly killings of people of color, few are as impactful as qualified immunity. But for as often as qualified immunity is pulled into wider debates, the concept itself is idiosyncratic and opaque, perhaps even among legal professionals. It is not a law but a precedent, not an act of government but a judicially created doctrine. King County Superior Court Judge David Whedbee is one of the organizers behind a planned full-day event aimed at examining qualified immunity. On May 7, Whedbee and Washington Supreme Court Justice Mary I. Yu will cohost “Qualified Immunity 360,” sponsored by the Washington State Minority and Justice Commission and featuring panelist presentations and discussion “to educate practitioners, judges, law students, and the public on the mechanics, history, and public policy behind the doctrine.”

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Law books and a phrenology head

Court of Appeals Issues Rare Decision on Revoking Consent to Conflict Waiver

Earlier this year, Division I of the Washington Court of Appeals issued a decision touching on an area of the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) that is rarely litigated: revoking consent to conflict waivers. The decision was “unpublished” under General Rule 14.1, but is instructive nonetheless—both for its illumination of this comparatively “unplumbed” area of conflicts law and as an illustration of the result.

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Winter CLE Sale Graphic

Popular Ethics and Other CLEs Still 50% Off

If there had to be a single moment to exemplify how much has changed in the world of law, it would have to be a distraught lawyer affirming to a district court judge “I’m not a cat.” Yes, just when you think you’ve got this virtual hearing thing down, you find yourself the victim of your kid’s Zoom filter, frantically trying to de-kitty your visage before you argue your case.

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Police shootout

State Supreme Court Case Could Determine Fate of King County’s Inquest Process

King County is one of the only jurisdictions in the country that requires an inquest every time a police officer kills a community member. But will these inquests continue to be largely pro forma processes that almost always appear to absolve officers of wrongdoing? Or will they become a meaningful tool for police accountability, a truly fair and transparent examination of what happened and why when law enforcement kills a member of the community? Families whose loved ones have been killed by law enforcement hope it is the latter.

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A woman in front of her computer working at home on Zoom.

ABA Issues New Ethics Opinion on Remote Working

The pandemic has forced many lawyers to work remotely. In some instances, that simply means working out of a home office in the same city that the lawyer’s firm is based. In others, however, lawyers have been working from second homes in states in which they are not licensed to practice law. The American Bar Association (ABA) recently addressed this latter aspect of remote work in a new ethics opinion—Formal Opinion 495, issued on Dec. 16.

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Accounting woman in a COVID mask

A Step-by-Step Guide to Year-End Bookkeeping for Law Firms

It’s that time again! Not just for holidays and eggnog, but also taxes, 1099s, and other year-end financial must-dos. And after the year we’ve had – what with PPP loans and unplanned expenses – the process will be more complicated than ever. If we set aside just a few minutes to organize our year-end now, we’ll find ourselves much less stressed when the new year and tax deadlines roll around. This practical, step-by-step guide will set you and your firm up for a year-end win and success in 2021.

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A View from the Respondents Regarding Subject Matter Jurisdiction

We were counsel for Olympic View Water and Sewer District in Ronald Wastewater District v. Olympic View Water & Sewer District. Benjamin Gould’s article in NWSidebar suggesting the Supreme Court’s reasoning in that case departed from past decisions of the court on subject-matter jurisdiction, fails to acknowledge supportive Supreme Court precedent.

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Law books

Supreme Court Applies Corporate Attorney-Client Privilege to ‘Functional Employees’

The Washington Supreme Court recently applied the corporate attorney-client privilege to “functional employees” in Hermanson v. Multicare Health Systems, Inc. In the privilege context, “functional employees” are not directly employed by a corporation but are sufficiently integrated into a company’s operations that some federal courts—including the 9th Circuit and Washington’s federal district courts—had concluded that they fall within the corporation’s attorney-client privilege.

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Lady Justice

Risk Management by the Numbers – New ABA Study on Malpractice Claims

Approximately every four years since 1985, the American Bar Association has published a “Profile of Legal Malpractice Claims.” Plaintiffs’ personal injury and family law are the most frequent source of claims, according to the latest profile. Although the Profile does not correlate the severity of claims by practice area, the Profile’s “anecdotal observations” section suggests that business and commercial law have traditionally been higher-risk areas on this score.

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