Cover of April/May 2021 Bar News depicting a cow

Home on the Range and a Home of Our Own in Latest Bar News

For many, dairy farms will bring to mind pleasant imagery of placid cows nibbling grass and farmworkers ambling in the pre-dawn hours with stool and milking bucket in hand. In reality, the job of a dairy farmworker involves handling sometimes dangerous fully grown cows, machinery that can lead to injury or death, and long hours in a risky environment. These are some of the reasons why dairy farmworkers fought and won the right to overtime pay after the landmark Washington Supreme Court decision Martinez-Cuevas v. DeRuyter Bros. In the newest issue of Washington State Bar News, Marc Lampson breaks down the court’s decision and provides a detailed history of dairy farming to explain how this battle for overtime pay and worker safety on dairy farms came about.

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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 May 28, 2021) (unpublished), involved Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and related claims by a condominium unit owner against his owners association and its management company.

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An empty courtroom

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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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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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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2021 Year Concept.

NWSidebar’s Top 10 Most-Read Blogs in 2021

It’s hard to believe that 2021 is already over. After a painfully slow 2020 during which the entire world was coming to grips with a (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, things almost began to feel normal this past year, and the weeks and months seemed to fly by. We started going out. We dared to think about things other than the virus. We gave our streaming services a much-needed break. The virus remained an ever-present part of life in 2021, but nowhere near what it was in the year before. You can see that reflected in the variety of topics covered on NWSidebar this year. Although the pandemic has remained a challenge for lawyers and non-lawyers alike, the blogs over the past year began to stretch beyond the limitations of COVID life and back into some semblance of normalcy. As has become our annual tradition, take a look back at 2021 to see the 10 most-read blogs of the year

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law books

Fine Print: Federal District Court Distinguishes Disciplinary and Malpractice Defense in Coverage Decision

Professional liability policies for lawyers and law firms often distinguish between disciplinary and malpractice defense. Some don’t cover disciplinary defense or, if they do, include a much lower coverage limit. A recent decision from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington underscored the practical impact of the distinction between disciplinary and malpractice coverage.

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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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Multi-colored fractal background

Strange New Trip: The Emerging World of Psychedelic Law and Decriminalization

After substances like LSD (acid), MDMA (ecstasy), and notably psilocybin (magic mushrooms) were classified as federally prohibited Schedule 1 drugs, a new wave of research into their therapeutic potential is growing, state and local governments are decriminalizing their use, and new areas of law are opening up. “Now there’s what’s referred to as a psychedelic renaissance …,” said Kathryn Tucker, special counsel at Emerge Law Group. “It’s just an incredible surge of interest.”

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Digital law and justice graphic with document, gavel, and scale icons

Statewide Electronic Filing is on the Way to Washington Courts

The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) will soon begin rolling out a new electronic system for case management and electronic filing (e-filing) for Washington’s district and municipal courts and probation offices. The AOC is trying to spread the word about the e-filing component of its Courts of Limited Jurisdiction Case Management System (CLJ-CMS) project, also known as Odyssey File & Serve (OFS).

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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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