Back when I was a prosecutor, I generally paid little to no attention to what the State Bar of Texas had going on within its ranks. The Office made it easy to do that. When it came time for Bar Dues, the Office paid them. If there were elections, or Bar Poll rankings, there was usually an Office-wide e-mail letting us know that we needed to vote or otherwise participate.
Other than that, there was very little interaction.
That changes when an attorney goes into private practice. You no longer have someone else to act as a liaison between you and the State Bar, and you have to keep a close eye on those votes and referendums that they propose.
I'm telling you this because first thing tomorrow (Tuesday) morning, voting begins on the State Bar's 2011 Referendum on the Texas Disciplinary Rules, and even if you are a prosecutor, I'm hoping you will take time out of your schedule to vote "No" on them.
CLICK HERE TO GO TO VOTING.
If you are anything like I was when I was a prosecutor, you are more than likely asking yourself "why the hell would I care about a bunch of rules that only pertain to lawyers in private practice"?
The simple answer is because sometimes you might end up in private practice. Even if right now you are pretty sure you are going to be a Prosecutor for Life.
Now, the rules that concern me aren't the ones prohibiting sexual contact with clients. If a lawyer is stupid enough to enter into a romantic relationship with a client or (God forbid) take sex as a payment for services, then that lawyer has got more freaking problems than the State Bar can regulate.
The ones that concern me are the others, which, if implemented would basically collapse private practice as we know it. If you are hoping to someday come into private practice, the Regulations that the State Bar's referendum is currently trying to pass will make it more complicated and more restrictive.
And trust me, starting a new law practice is already complicated as it is.
Mark Bennett has been doing an excellent job of covering and analyzing why the proposed new rules are so bad. Starting with the first proposition that would essentially ban the taking of flat fees from clients an attorney represents. As Mark put it, the effect of this would ensure that "only the wealthy will be able to afford competent counsel in criminal cases." Paul Kennedy also does a good job of illustrating what the problem is with this post.
The new rules would, in essence, prohibit a criminal defense attorney for quoting a fee for representation and replace it with hourly billing that (in most cases) is going to cause costs to go up for a person charged.
For example, let's say I typically quote a client a flat fee of X amount of dollars to represent them for a Possession case. I think it is the fair amount. If I resolve the case quickly -- great for me (in a business capacity). But if I get into a quagmire and I spend a lot more time than I had anticipated (and quoted my fee based on), then the client isn't going to get screwed by me going over (a time) budget. He has a pre-arranged fee and he isn't obligated to pay me any more money.
The new rules would prohibit that and require hourly billing. The downfalls of that are numerous. I'm not going to re-invent the wheel by regurgitating what Mark and Paul (and a host of other attorneys across the State) have written, but I strongly encourage you to educate yourself to the Referendum.
Once you do, I'm pretty sure that you'll see that a vote of "No" is the only appropriate vote if you think there is even the slightest chance that you will ever end up in private practice.