From the recently ended semester.
You are a litigation associate in a private practice law firm (“Firm”). The partner (“Partner”) asks for your help analyzing a potential new matter. The proposed client, Plaintiff, an airline that carries cargo, believes it has a contractual right to the exclusive use of a small commercial airport that is currently being used by ten competing airlines (which are conveniently named Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, and Juliet). Plaintiff wants to bring a suit for injunctive relief, barring all ten airlines from using that airport.
Partner tells you about some potential problems. The firm has been representing a company, Kilo, on some state law tax issues. Kilo is 66% owned by Alpha. The last billings to Kilo were three months ago and there is apparently no work going on right now—but no termination letter has gone out. Second, Bravo is a current client of the firm on employment counseling issues. Third, about one month ago, the Firm hired a lawyer, Lisa Lateral, who had previously done corporate work for Charlie. Fourth, our Firm used to represent Delta, but that was seven years ago and the lawyers who handled that have left the Firm.
Partner tells you, “I plan to talk to the CEO of Plaintiff and say that our Firm can do the litigation against Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, and Juliet, and we will quickly build a wall around Lisa Lateral just as insurance even though it’s not needed. If we win the suit, Alpha and Bravo can be dealt with in a second phase—a quick negotiation in light of the Plaintiff’s victory over the other companies or perhaps a second round of litigation brought by some other firm. That’s a good plan, isn’t it?”
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Using the ABA Model Rules and your sound judgment, advise the partner about how the law of lawyering applies to the fact pattern.
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You work for a direct services group, the Alameda County Homeless Advocates (ACHA), that counsels poor and indigent people on their legal rights under state and federal administrative laws.
One of your clients, Clarissa Clark, comes to see you about a problem. Clark is a recovered, or recovering, alcoholic with a history of mental health issues. She has been living in an apartment subsidized by state funds but has been notified by the county that she might be moved to a different, less desirable set of apartments that the county is opening up several miles from Clark’s current apartments. Although the new building is nice, the new apartments are smaller, the building is not well served by public transit, and the move will take Clark out of her neighborhood. (You are aware that the new building will not be close to liquor stores and would put Clark much closer to her nephew, who on occasion drops by Clark’s apartment to see how his aunt is doing.) According to the county, Clark has been receiving modest monthly income supplements from her nephew, which have rendered Clark ineligible to remain in the current apartments.
At the meeting, Clark doesn’t seem to grasp the trade-off between receiving her nephew’s financial assistance and her desire to remain in her current apartments. As you look over the notification that the county sent to Clark, you see the name of a county lawyer, Elena Nochera, who went to law school with you and who has a social justice orientation. You know that you and Nochera are chronically over-worked and under-staffed, but can on occasion make special efforts to resolve a few cases that you find particularly compelling.
After Clark leaves, you go to speak to your supervisor but she is busy. You speak briefly to another lawyer at ACHA who has been there for many years. He knows about the recent notifications that have gone out from the county and says that if Clark can stay put for 90 days the new building will be full and Clark won’t be moved. He suggests that you call the nephew and explain the situation and see if the nephew doesn’t come to the realization that it would help to stop making payments briefly, save up the money, and send a larger lump sum in 90-100 days once the crisis is passed. In the meantime you can tell the county the payments aren’t guaranteed and have stopped. Telling that to the county should be enough to keep Clark in her building until the new building is full. (You wonder if the nephew would actually prefer seeing his aunt move to the new building.)
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Using the ABA Model Rules and your sound judgment, explain how the law of lawyering limits your course of conduct and suggest what you might do to handle this situation.
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