A Take Care of Your Reputation: It’s Your Most Valuable Asset By Frank Mascagni, III Frank Mascagni, III has been practicing criminal law for over 36 years. He is recognized by Best Lawyers in America® , as a Kentucky Superlawyer®, as a Top Lawyer by Louisville Magazine and as a AV Rated Lawyer by Martindale-Hubbell®. His address 701 West Je erson Street, Louisville, Kentucky 40202-2742 and he can be reached at 502-583-2831. Ethics s lawyers, whether you practice civil or criminal law, it is imperative we understand our roles as litigators, which is sometimes misunderstood – even by counsel. As practitioners of law, whether civil or criminal, we both play an important part in making certain that the guarantees of our State and Federal Constitution and its Bill of Rights protect everyone. Whether you negotiate or litigate, your role is essential to assuring a positive outcome for your client. We enjoy greater freedom in the United States than in any other society in the world. Th erefore, vigorous and fair treatment to those involved in legal proceeding is essential to an ordered society. In discussing general considerations for practitioners of law, we must fi rst understand the system and our roles. Equally important to the understanding of our roles is the understanding of the limitations of your role. Traditionally, attorneys have been stereotyped as creatures whose job is to get his or her client off or secure a judgment at all costs. Equally as untrue is the stereotype of the prosecutor or the plaintiff ’s lawyer whose job it is to get a conviction or judgment at all costs. Both of these stereotypes are false and if you practice law this way, you will certainly shorten your personal and professional life. Whether you practice civil or criminal law, you don’t want to have your reputation tarnished, neglect or malpractice the case, get sued by a disgruntled client, or be subjected to a claim of ineff ective assistance of counsel, or accused of professional misconduct. Take care of your reputation, it’s your most valuable asset, or you run the grave risk of breaching the cannons of ethics and facing the ethics Tribunal with a violation of unethical behavior. Here’s Why You Take Care of Your Reputation “What we’ve got here... is failure to communicate.” (A famous line from the 1967 fi lm Cool Hand Luke. Spoken by Th e Captain, the imperious prison warden played by Strother Martin.) Th e total number of formal Complaints fi led against attorneys has been on the increase for the last several years. For the fi scal year 2012-2013 there were a total of 1,057 complaints received. Private admonitions were authorized in 64 cases and 133 cases resulted in renditions by the Kentucky Supreme Court (disbarment, suspension, reprimand, and dismissed). Th e total number of lawyers licensed in the state of Kentucky was 17,432. Th e percentage of Kentucky lawyers with complaints fi led 2012-2013 was 3.95%. Major Areas of Complaint • Diligence • Communications • Fees • Client Property • Termination 275 273 173 76 65 862 Total: Th e balance of 195 Complaints address other rules shown in the chart on the following page. Th ere are in excess of 1,000 Complaints fi led each year with the Kentucky Bar Association with a current Bar Membership of over 17,000 KBA members. It is painfully obvious that many lawyers are not versed in the skill of communication / client public relations. Practicing attorneys need to pay more attention to their phone calls received, client letters received and conversations with a client in person at their offi ce. It needs to be clearly explained to the client that there will be times where there will be no activity in the case as the case progresses. Th e lawyer needs to explain his procedure in responding to phone calls, letters and signifi cant events as the case unfolds. Th e client needs to understand that there are always open lines of communication through the lawyer’s secretary, receptionist, law clerk, associates or assigned offi ce personnel when he/she is unavailable. Th e lawyer needs to develop form letters and/or cover letters to send to his/her clients on a regular basis keeping the client constantly informed as to the progress being made in the case.