Washington Lawyer

Legal Beat

From Washington Lawyer, April 2015

By David O’Boyle and Michael Smith

D.C. Bar Nominations Committee Announces Candidates for Bar Office
Laura PossesskyAnnamaria Steward. Photo courtesy of Mr. Jack OlenderThe D.C. Bar Nominations Committee has selected Laura Possessky, a partner at Gura & Possessky, PLLC, and Annamaria Steward, associate dean of students at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) David A. Clarke School of Law, as candidates for D.C. Bar president-elect for the 2015–2016 term. The president-elect serves for one year before becoming president and continues in office a third year as immediate past president.

Possessky serves as chair of the D.C. Bar Technology Committee and is a member of the D.C. Bar Leadership Committee. She formerly served as president of the Women’s Bar Association, as D.C. Bar treasurer, and as a member of the Bar’s Board of Governors, and chaired the Bar’s Council on Sections. Possessky is also active in the ABA where she is the D.C. Bar delegate to the ABA House of Delegates and serves as a liaison on behalf of the WBA to the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession.

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Georgetown University Law Center, Possessky manages her law firm’s media and entertainment practice. She counsels clients on matters such as contract negotiations, deal structuring, intellectual property, media transactions, and rights protections issues.

Steward is a member of the Bar’s Board of Governors and also serves on its Executive, Budget, and Leadership Development committees. She formerly served a term as D.C. Bar secretary and was a member of the Bar’s Strategic Planning and Publications committees. Steward was elected president of the Bar Association of the District of Columbia for the 2010–2011 term. She has been active in various capacities in the National Bar Association, Washington Bar Association, and ABA Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section.

Steward is a graduate of Dartmouth College and The George Washington University Law School. At UDC, Steward leads, develops, and oversees all aspects of student affairs of the law school student body in accordance with ABA standards.

The Nominations Committee also announced the selection of candidates for other Bar positions. Nominated for secretary are Shara Chang of BuckleySandler LLP and Lindsey R. Vaala of Vinson & Elkins LLP, and for treasurer are Jeffrey D. Ahdoot of Ahdoot IP Law, PLLC and Christopher P. Zubowicz of the U.S. Department of Justice.

The following are candidates for five vacancies on the Bar’s Board of Governors for three-year terms: Marina S. Barannik of Feldesman Tucker Leifer Fidell LLP; Susan Low Bloch of Georgetown University Law Center; G. Brian Busey of Morrison Foerster LLP; Moses A. Cook of D.C. Law Students in Court; Ann K. Ford of DLA Piper; Arian M. June of WilmerHale LLP; Matthew G. Kaiser of Kaiser, LeGrand & Dillon PLLC; Leah M. Quadrino of Steptoe & Johnson LLP; Mark A. Salzberg of Squire Patton Boggs; and Gregory S. Smith of the Law Offices of Gregory S. Smith.

The Nominations Committee also announced the following candidates for three open seats in the ABA House of Delegates: Beth L. Law of the Consumer Specialty Products Association, Lisa J. Savitt of Crowell & Moring LLP, Paul M. Smith of Jenner & Block LLP, and D. Jean Veta of Covington & Burling LLP. Carter T. Coker of Hunton & Williams LLP and Ross C. Paolino of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP have been selected as candidates for the under-36 seat.

Ballots and instructions for voting, by mail or online, will be distributed to all active Bar members on April 27. The deadline to vote is May 22.

Results of the election will be announced on the Bar’s Web site and during the 2015 Celebration of Leadership, which includes the Bar’s Awards Dinner and Annual Meeting, on June 16 at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel, 1127 Connecticut Avenue NW.—M.S.

D.C. Bar Foundation’s Kirra Jarratt Receives Charlotte E. Ray Award
Kirra Jarratt. Photo courtesy of Patrice Gilbert PhotographyOn February 25 the Greater Washington Area Chapter (GWAC) of the Women Lawyers Division of the National Bar Association and the GWAC Foundation, Inc. presented their 2015 Charlotte E. Ray Award to Kirra L. Jarratt, executive director of the D.C. Bar Foundation.

Jarratt was honored during the organizations’ 27th annual reception at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP.

“Kirra has paved the way for other African American attorneys to follow in her footsteps . . . she is a true trailblazer,” said Melanie Bates, president of GWAC and policy and communications associate at the American Civil Liberties Union of the Nation’s Capital. “Kirra exemplifies everything that Charlotte E. Ray and many of us could ever dream of becoming.”

Jarratt said receiving the award was special to her because of the important role GWAC has played in her personal life, volunteer experience, and career since she first entered the legal profession.

In accepting the award, Jarratt said that while only one name appears on the plaque, in her mind there is one more—that of her mother, with whom she entered into private practice at the beginning of her career.

“I’m blessed to have a mother whose love and guidance have been ever present,” Jarratt said. “My mother’s love has allowed me to be the trailblazer that I am. The passion and commitment that I have given to everything I have ever done are modeled on my mother and the leadership that she has shown me over the course of my life.”

Ray was the first black woman certified as a lawyer in the United States and the first woman admitted to practice in the District of Columbia. However, due to race and gender discrimination during her time, Ray was unable to maintain an active practice.

GWAC presents the award annually to a black woman who has demonstrated a strong commitment to community involvement, mentorship, advocacy, and excellence in the metropolitan Washington community.—D.O.

Superior Court Mandates eFiling of Some Civil Division Complaints
The Superior Court of the District of Columbia has issued an administrative order mandating the eFiling of complaints in certain types of cases within the Civil Division starting on May 4. The expansion of mandatory eFiling to the Civil Division is part of the court’s effort to implement eFiling in all divisions and branches where technologically feasible and consistent with legal requirements.

Under the order, which was issued on February 13, plaintiffs represented by an attorney in specified Civil Division cases are required to eFile complaints. Unrepresented parties may, but are not required to, eFile complaints.

The court will observe a transition period between March 2 and May 3 during which time parties may, but are not required to, eFile complaints. This transition period will not affect mandatory eFiling and eService in civil cases.

Previous administrative orders regarding eFiling and a list of case types for which eFiling is mandatory can be found on the court’s Web site at www.dccourts.gov.—D.O.

A View From the Bench
Judge Paul L. Friedman, Miguel A. Estrada, and Judge Ketanji Brown Jack at Judge Paul L. Friedman (left), who joined the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in 1994, and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson (right), who joined in 2013, compared their experiences on the bench during the program “A Conversation on Judging—Then and Now,” presented by the Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit and the Society’s Law Clerk Initiative. Miguel A. Estrada (center) moderated the program held on February 25 at the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse.—M.S.

Committee Releases Ethics Opinion on Lawyer Employment Agreements
In February the D.C. Bar Legal Ethics Committee published Opinion 368, “Lawyer Employment Agreements—Restrictions on Departing Lawyer Who Competes With Former Firm.” The opinion examines D.C. Rule 5.6(a), which governs a lawyer’s ability to make or participate in agreements that include provisions restricting a lawyer’s right to practice, and concludes that a law firm may not provide for or impose liquidated damages on a lawyer who, after departure, competes with the firm.

The opinion also declares that a firm may not restrict a departed lawyer’s subsequent professional association or affiliation with partners or employees of the firm except for activity that is subject to legal limitations outside the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct.

Additionally, the opinion includes a discussion of whether a choice of law provision in a partnership or employment agreement can avoid application of D.C. Rule 5.6(a), and determines that the answer, under Rule 8.5(b)(2), usually will depend on the location in which the departing lawyer principally practices.

Full text of the new opinion can be found on the D.C. Bar’s Web site.—D.O.

Online Voting in Sections’ Steering Committee Elections Opens April 27
The 2015 D.C. Bar section steering committee elections will be conducted primarily online, with paper ballots only available on request. Voting will take place on the Bar’s Web site between April 27 and May 22. 

Section members in good standing can access their ballots by logging in to the Bar’s Web site during the spring voting period to cast their ballots. Individuals who wish to receive a paper ballot must submit a request no later than April 15 online, or by e-mail to [email protected].

Online voting will be available to all eligible voters throughout the election period, but paper ballots will not be generated unless a specific request is submitted.

New Bar Members Must Complete Practice Course
New members of the District of Columbia Bar are reminded that they have 12 months from the date of admission to complete the required course on the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct and District of Columbia practice offered by the D.C. Bar Continuing Legal Education Program.

D.C. Bar members who have been inactive, retired, or voluntarily resigned for five years or more also are required to complete the course if they are seeking to switch or be reinstated to active member status. In addition, members who have been suspended for five years or more for nonpayment of dues or late fees are required to take the course to be reinstated.

New members who do not complete the mandatory course requirement within 12 months of admission receive a noncompliance notice and a final 60-day window in which to comply. After that date, the Bar administratively suspends individuals who have not completed the course and forwards their names to the clerks of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals and the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, and to the Office of Bar Counsel.

Suspensions become a permanent part of members’ records. To be reinstated, one must complete the course and pay a $50 fee.

The preregistration fee is $219; the onsite fee is $279. Courses will be held April 7, May 16, June 9, July 11, and August 11. Advanced registration is encouraged.

For more information or to register online.

Survey Reveals Public Perceptions of Lawyers and Legal Profession
If Americans were to pick a fictional lawyer whom they would like their attorneys to emulate, they would choose Perry Mason from the eponymous mid-20th century television series or Jack McCoy from Law & Order.

But while lawyers are viewed as smart, tough, and trustworthy, they are least likely to be picked as a date when lined up next to doctors, teachers, firefighters, and police officers.
These are among the findings of a survey conducted by Special Counsel, a national legal staffing and recruiting firm, when it asked more than 1,000 people living in the United States about their views of the legal profession and legal professionals.

The December 2014 telephone survey showed that 62 percent of Americans have used a lawyer, and of that number, 74 percent believed their experience could have been improved, with most saying their attorneys could have charged less.

In addition to complaints about the cost of legal services, respondents also felt that their lawyer could have offered more advice, been more responsive, and explained legal processes with more clarity.

Forty-six percent of respondents think lawyers are rich, but only one in four have considered a career in the legal profession. The high cost of law school was cited as the top factor discouraging them from pursuing a legal career.

More than half of those surveyed said they would like to join the profession for the opportunity to help others, while 22 percent said the financial reward would be their principal motivation.

“[The survey] shows that most people who are committing to law school—the time and the expense—are wanting to do it because they want to help other people,” said Laurie Chamberlin, brand president of Special Counsel. “It’s less about the money than it used to be . . . there’s a passion for the law and a passion for helping others.”

When asked which fictional characters they would want their lawyers to closely mirror to, most respondents picked those with responsible and ethical reputations.

“People pick TV characters who are honest, ethical, and smart,” Chamberlin said. “They pick the Perry Masons and Jack McCoys rather than some of the sketchy lawyers you see on TV and in the movies.”

Chamberlin said she was surprised and amused by the survey’s results on which professionals the respondents found most desirable to date.

“Back in the day, everybody wanted to date a doctor or a lawyer. I think the results speak to the fact that people have entirely different views of who is ‘dateable’ today,” she said.

The survey also found that when searching for legal services, people place the most stock in a lawyer’s previous experience, followed by past results and references from family and friends. Only 6 percent cited price as their top concern when seeking legal assistance.

Lawyers were most likely to be described as “smart” and “tough” by respondents, but nearly half of those surveyed also believe lawyers are “overpaid” and “rich.”

Overall, though, the survey’s findings portray a profession that is generally regarded in a positive light, according to Chamberlin.

“People do believe that attorneys are knowledgeable, smart, and ethical. While it’s fun to make fun of the profession for a lot of folks, at the end of the day lawyers are who they turn to when they’re in trouble, and they think that it’s going to work out in an honest, ethical way.” —D.O.

Deadline Extended for Public Comment to Amend D.C. Rule 1.2
The D.C. Bar Rules of Professional Conduct Review Committee is currently soliciting public comment from members of the Bar on its final draft report and recommendation to amend Rule 1.2 (Scope of Representation) of the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct. The deadline for comments has been extended to April 6.

In April 2013, the Limited Scope Working Group, a joint project of the D.C. Access to Justice Commission and the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program, issued a report recommending action by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, the D.C. Bar, and prospective limited-scope lawyers and clients to help increase access to justice through the provision of limited-scope services to underserved communities. Because the Working Group’s report included a recommendation to revise the Rules, the report was submitted to the Rules Review Committee for its consideration in May 2013.

After careful consideration of D.C. Rule 1.2 and the Working Group’s report, the committee recommends amendments to Rule 1.2 and Comments to provide more clarity and guidance to lawyers who engage in limited-scope practice to help facilitate access to justice through the provision of limited-scope legal services by members of the D.C. Bar. In addition, the committee recommends a more comprehensive amendment to Rule 1.2 that will affect the provision of all legal services, including limited-scope legal services. Before submission to the D.C. Bar Board of Governors, the committee requests public comment on the amendments proposed in its final draft report.

The committee recommends that Rule 1.2 be amended to (1) require lawyer–client agreement about the scope and objectives of a representation at the onset of representation, and (2) affirm and clarify that when a client gives informed consent, the scope of a representation may be limited to only certain aspects of a matter, rather than the matter in its entirety, if the limitation does not preclude competent representation or violate other Rules. The committee also recommends amendments to the Comments to provide more guidance to lawyers providing limited-scope representation pursuant to Rule 1.2.

More information about this call for public comment, including the committee’s final draft report and recommendations and the April 2013 Report of the Limited Scope Working Group, can be found at www.dcbar.org, keywords: D.C. Rule 1.2.

Written comments should be submitted by e-mail to [email protected], or to the Rules Review Committee, c/o Hope C. Todd, District of Columbia Bar, 1101 K Street NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20005. For hard copies of the report, please contact LaJuan Evans at 202-737-4700, ext. 3341.—D.O.

Reach David O’Boyle and Michael Smith.