State Bar Councilor Update

Dear Friends and Colleagues of the Buncombe County Bar –

I hope you are well and having a wonderful summer!

The State Bar Council held its most recent quarterly meeting on July 24-27, 2018.  I thought I would pass along a brief summary of some of the main areas the Bar handled this quarter.  The Bar will send out a more detailed report in the near future.

I. Ethics:

  1. Due to what appears to be (at least the temporary) demise of AVVO,  Proposed 2017 FEO 6 is being withdrawn regarding participation in AVOO legal services.
  2. There has been an inquiry about the use of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency by law firms, so be on the lookout for a proposed ethics opinion on that issue.
  3. Proposed 2018 FEO 5 (accessing social network presence of represented or unrepresented persons) is being returned to its subcommittee.
  4. The following Proposed FEOs were adopted and approved by the Council, making them effective 7/27/2018:

         a. 2018 FEO 1 (This opinion explains when a lawyer may participate in an online rating system and the lawyer’s professional responsibility for the content posted on a website directory profile);

         b. 2018 FEO 2 (A lawyer has a duty to disclose to a tribunal adverse legal authority that is controlling as to that tribunal if the legal authority is known to the lawyer and is not disclosed by opposing counsel);

         c. 2018 FEO 3 (the name of a lawyer under an active suspension must be removed from the firm name);

        d. 2018 FEO 6 (under certain conditions a lawyer may include in a client’s fee agreement a provision allowing the lawyer’s purchase of litigation cost protection insurance and requiring reimbursement of the insurance premium from the client’s funds in the event of settlement or favorable trial verdict);

         e. Ethics Decision 2018-1 (the RPC do not prohibit a lawyer from serving an opposing party’s subpoena on a witness adverse to the lawyer’s client if the lawyer is so ordered by a court or tribunal).

II.    IOLTA interest income received in the first five months of 2018 increased by 18% compared to last year.

III.  Grievance:

The Grievance Review II Special Committee has completed its review of the grievance process, finding that only a few tweaks were necessary to continue providing the consistency and efficiency that is a hallmark of the program.

Behold some recent statistics on grievance cases opened:

2015:  1331 grievance files opened

2016:  1,375 grievance files opened

2017:  1,305 grievance files opened

2018:  as of 7/20/18, 933 files have been opened

IV.  In other news:

  1. Barbara Christy of Greensboro has been nominated to become the next Vice-President of the NCSB.  Barbara is a great person, and will serve the Bar well.  Plans are also moving forward for the retirement of Tom Lunsford and the transition of Alice Mine to be the new executive director.  This is the first transition of staff leadership in 40 years.  As noted in the last report, Brian Oten was promoted to Assistant Director in July with responsibility for many of our program activities, including the Ethics Committee.  Peter Bolac will become Assistant Director with management responsibilities on October 1, and he will continue to be our legislative liaison.
  2. A new Special Committee is taking a close look at ABA-proposed modifications in advertising rules.
  3. The Legislative Committee discussed constitutional amendments regarding appointing judges to fill vacancies and legislation proposed for redistricting.  Even though these measures will impact lawyers in NC, they do not implicate Chapter 84, so no position was taken by the State Bar.
  4. We heard an interesting presentation by former Justice Edmonds and former Chief Judge Arnold regarding the efforts by a special subcommittee that also includes former Chief Judge Martin to respond to attacks on the judiciary in the media, and to try to prevent such attacks from occurring by establishing relationships with the NC Press Association and reporters who cover the courts.
  5. We approved a proposal by our newest standing committee, Communications, to involve all our councilors in efforts to educate lawyers and the public about the State Bar and our many responsibilities.

Thank you, and please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, concerns, or criticisms.  My direct line at work is 575-1344, and my cell is 707-4249. Take care!


Anna Hamrick
State Bar Councilor