Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 39

ASK THE ETHICS EXPERTS

OSI

THE DO'S AND DON'TS
OF CROWDFUNDING

Q
A

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SINCE 1981

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A client's family members were victims of a terrible crime. The tragedy
garnered much public attention and support for both him and his surviving
young child. Our client would like the firm to handle not only the civil litigation
related to this atrocity, but also to help direct crowdfunding efforts to pay for
legal fees and expenses. Is such assistance permitted under the D.C. Rules of
Professional Conduct?

'Digital mail' options: same day
notification of items received, and
scanned copies if desired

Although raising money through social media on platforms such as GoFundMe or
Kickstarter is a relatively recent innovation, soliciting money from individuals or entities
other than a client to pay for legal representation is neither a new nor an unethical
proposition. In Opinion 375 (Ethical Considerations of Crowdfunding),1 the D.C. Bar
Legal Ethics Committee examines the ethics rules implicated and other practical
considerations for lawyers who either receive legal fees paid by crowdfunds raised
by a client or who direct the crowdfunding on behalf of a client. As discussed in the opinion, a lawyer who
conducts crowdfunding on behalf of a client must at a minimum be cognizant of and comply with the rules
governing a lawyer's receipt of third-party funds, fee agreements, confidentiality of client information, truthfulness in statements to others, and the management of client funds.

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For example, as to the management of client funds, the committee's determination that "[f]unds
collected on behalf of a client by the lawyer through crowdfunding must be treated as advanced fees,"
and that "[i]n the absence of an appropriate agreement, unearned crowdfunds are the property of the
client," dictate very specific obligations by lawyers under Rule 1.15 (Safekeeping Property) regarding the
possession of those funds.2

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D.C. Bar Legal Ethics counsel Hope C. Todd, Saul Jay Singer, and Erika Stillabower are available for inquiries
at ethics@dcbar.org.

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NOTES
1 See dcbar.org/bar-resources/legal-ethics/opinions/Ethics-Opinion-375.cfm.

1629 K St. Suite 300
N.W. Washington D.C. 20006

2 See D.C. Rules 1.8, 1.5, 1.6, 4.1, and 1.15.

WOMEN'S WAVE (continued from page 17)
28.6 percent of all seats. That's up from 1,879 seats
in 2018.
Women's advocates say the presence of women in
larger and larger numbers in state and national
politics is the tip of the spear in the quest for parity.
If there is a lesson to be learned from the women's
wave, it is that time, superior preparation, and
money can level the playing field for women politicians and the public.
"What we hope for is more conversations that are
inclusive of viewpoints and life experiences that
have been marginalized and missing in Congress,"
says Dittmar. "I hope that the success of these
women in 2019 will be the inspiration for other
diverse populations. They will look at Congress and
politics as more accessible and representative."

Still, the new women lawmakers face a daunting
task that goes beyond gender. Party control is split
between Democrats in the House and Republicans
in the Senate, and the White House is still in the
hands of Republicans - a perfect recipe for
divided government and gridlock.
"In normal times, you might be able to make some
progress on any number of issues, but not at this
point in our history," says Swers, the Georgetown
professor. "The new women will have access to
shaping the agenda in the House, but they'll have
a hard time getting anything into law because
Republicans control the Senate and the presidency.
It's not impossible, but it will be a challenge."

https://osioffices.com (202) 600-7777

Sarah Kellogg is a regular contributor to Washington
Lawyer.

manager@osioffices.com

*

MARCH 2019

*

WASHINGTON LAWYER 39


http://www.dcbar.org/bar-resources/legal-ethics/opinions/Ethics-Opinion-375.cfm https://www.osioffices.com http://www.dcbar.org/

Washington Lawyer - March 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - March 2019

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Practice Management
Calendar of Events
Government & Gavel
The Women's Wave & Its Effects on Politics
Features: #Me Too & A Time Of Reckoning for the Law
Feature: Righting The Gender Imbalance In Big Law
Feature: A Day in The Life of Two Women Lawyers
Global & Domestic Outlook
Worth Reading
Media Bytes
Attorney Briefs
Ask The Ethics Experts
Disciplinary Summaries
The Pro Bono Efect
Community & Connections
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 1
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 2
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 3
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 7
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 9
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 11
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Government & Gavel
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 13
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - The Women's Wave & Its Effects on Politics
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 15
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 16
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 17
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Features: #Me Too & A Time Of Reckoning for the Law
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 19
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 20
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 21
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Feature: Righting The Gender Imbalance In Big Law
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 23
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 24
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 25
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Feature: A Day in The Life of Two Women Lawyers
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 27
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 28
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 29
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 30
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 31
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 32
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 33
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Global & Domestic Outlook
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 35
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Media Bytes
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Ask The Ethics Experts
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 41
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 42
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 43
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - The Pro Bono Efect
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 45
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Community & Connections
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 47
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 48
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Cover4
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