As I continue studying for the Florida Bar Exam, I keep coming across questions that are very rare in the real world. Few lawyers will ever deal with a separation of powers question, for example.
Here are some questions that (maybe) should be on bar exams:
1. Ethics: A client walks into your office to pay you $100 he owes you. He slaps down a $100 bill on your desk, says "here's your money you greedy bastard," and walks out. As you pick up the money, you realize that it's actually two $100 bills stuck together. You should:
a. Rush out after the client and hand him the extra $100.
b. Mail the client a check for $100 along with a letter explaining the circumstances.
c. Share the bonus money with your partner.
d. Don't tell your partner and pocket the extra $100.
2. Ethics: You realize that you accidentally wrote a check from your escrow account that should have come from your regular firm checking account. You should:
a. Replace the money immediately, and report your error to any affected clients as well as the ethics committee.
b. Replace the money when you think your escrow account might be close to a zero balance to avoid having the error reported to the ethics committee.
c. Replace the money immediately and don't tell anyone.
d. Take the rest of the money out of your escrow account and retire to Panama.
3. Law Practice Management: A prospective client called. You listened for a few minutes and then explained your fee structure for the case, including that you require $1000 up front. She explains that she is having financial difficulty right now and asks if you do payment plans. You should:
a. Give her a discount and let her make small monthly payments.
b. Give her the phone number for legal aid.
c. Hang up the phone.
d. Tell her to go to hell and then hang up the phone.
4. Criminal: You are a prosecutor conducting a trial. The arresting officer just told one of the biggest whopping lies you've ever heard and you know he's lying. You should:
a. Report the lie to the judge and the defense attorney forthwith.
b. Wait a few minutes, then act like you've got an important phone call and request an adjournment. Come back in and offer the defense lawyer a great deal because you've got to get to work on a bigger case.
c. Ignore the lie and go forward as if it was the truth.
d. Prep the other officers with the same lie.
5. Litigation: The judge is giving you a really hard time about a case, pushing you to complete discovery in a timely manner and otherwise harassing you. You should:
a. Get everything done quickly so you don't piss off the judge any more.
b. Take your time because that judge will probably retire soon and you'll get more time from the next one.
c. Call opposing counsel and see if he'll collude with you on further delays.
d. Bring your hot paralegal to the next conference to distract the judge.
6. Traffic: You secured a great deal for your speeding ticket client, getting his 120 mph speed reduced to a parking ticket. Unfortunately the client hasn't paid the $100 fine and the judge is about to reopen the case. You have already tried to communicate with the client by phone, e-mail and mail twice each. You should:
a. Search public records to see if the client moved or to locate family in a concerted effort to advise the client of the situation.
b. Pay the fine to protect the client's interest and continue to make efforts to locate him.
c. Fake a death certificate for your client and mail it to the Court.
d. Close the file.
7. Appellate: A trial judge just reversed your $1 million verdict. The appellate court has extremely complicated rules about how to file and "perfect" your appeal. You should:
a. Hire one of the many companies that barraged your office with brochures and packets describing their appellate preparation services.
b. Hand the case off to an appellate attorney who is familiar with this particular appellate court.
c. Hire one of the many out-of-work law graduates who are waiting for their bar results to do the work, pay them little or nothing and tell them that the experience will be great on their resume (hey, it's probably true).
d. Slap something together and don't worry about all those requirements, because all courts decide cases on the merits rather than the quality of the papers.
8. Torts: You've been contacted by a prospective client who has what sounds like a great medical malpractice case. You are a real estate attorney and have never done a med-mal case before. You should:
a. Refer the case to an experienced malpractice attorney in exchange for 10% of the fee.
b. Refer the case to your friend the car accident lawyer in exchange for 33% of the fee.
c. Take the case, making sure your legal malpractice insurance is up-to-date, and study hard to get yourself up to speed on how to handle a case like this.
d. Take the case and negotiate with the med-mal insurer directly so you get the full 33% fee, which will be a lot more for you even if you only get half the settlement a competent lawyer would recover.
9. Divorce: Despite telling yourself you'd never take a divorce case, a client came along and paid you a $25,000 retainer up front at a time when you really needed the money. Two years have gone by. The retainer is now exhausted, the client hasn't paid anything in over a year and she now owes you $50,000. She calls your cell phone three times a day about stupid things like who is going to get the Vanilla Ice CD. You should:
a. Make a motion to the Court to be relieved as counsel due to non-payment of fees.
b. Retire to Panama, making sure to change your cell phone number.
c. Work out a settlement with the husband's attorney and force your client to sign off on it.
d. Offer to let the client pay off the money owed the old fashioned way.
10. Law Practice Management: You've just opened your own office and after two weeks you realize that people won't just call you out of the blue and that you have to drum up business. You have $50,000 to spend. You should:
a. Take out full-page color ads in each of the area Yellow Pages at a cost of $50K for the first year.
b. Spend $50K on a mix of broadcast and cable TV.
c. Spend $50K on the strong radio stations that target your ideal demographic audience.
d. Pay back $50K of your student loans and find a job doing something outside law.