Tucked in a footnote in AGC v. Jackson, 477 Md. 174, 269 A.3d 252 (2022), a decision dealing largely with the unauthorized practice of law, is a discussion about how the Office of Bar Counsel has altered its approach to interacting with Maryland attorneys over the last few years. In footnote 5, the Court of Appeals addresses Bar Counsel's position on providing guidance to Maryland attorneys who have questions about how to comply with the ethical rules. See more on this decision here: AGC v. Jackson Takes on Non-Maryland Lawyers Who Maintain Offices in the State.
Footnote 5 centers on what occurred after counsel for Ms. Jackson, the respondent-attorney, deposed Glenn Grossman, Maryland's former Bar Counsel during the course of Bar Counsel's investigation. Id. at 190, 269 A.3d at 261. During his deposition, Mr. Grossman testified about how the Office of Bar Counsel had changed its approach to interacting with Maryland attorneys between 2015 and 2020. Id. Concerning Mr. Grossman’s testimony, the Court of Appeals noted that while Bar Counsel's current policy "is not to offer what it considers to be 'legal advice' on compliance related matters, it has not always been that office's policy." Id. Indeed, in the past, Bar Counsel would often engage in a dialogue with attorneys in an effort to help them meet their ethical obligations, but that is often no longer the case.
Whether the change in approach arose from philosophical or strategic reasons, Jackson generally and Footnote 5 specifically are worth a read because they demonstrate the uncertainty that comes when faced with ethical quandaries. Given this unpredictability, it is increasingly important to consult with counsel before taking actions that may run afoul of the ethical rules.
Goodell DeVries defends various professionals in Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia, including lawyers and law firms. Many of these cases are ethics matters involving Bar Counsel. If you have questions about the above or are a Maryland lawyer facing discipline, please contact us at EthicsHelp@gdldlaw.com