Denizens of the gaming world recently welcomed the launch of Minecraft 1.8. This updated version of the popular online game, which allows allow players to build constructions out of textured cubes in a 3D procedurally generated world, introduces new options, like building a slime block elevator for faster player movement.
1.8 has a somewhat different meaning for lawyers — and mine-field is probably a more apt analogy than mine-craft. Model Rule 1.8 prohibits a lawyer from entering into a “business transaction” with a client unless (1) the terms are “fair and reasonable to the client and are fully disclosed and transmitted in writing”; (2) the client is advised in writing to “seek the advice of independent legal counsel”; and (3) the client gives informed written consent to the transaction and the lawyer’s role therein.
One lawyer recently found out the hard way about the consequences of not complying with Rule 1.8. After naively agreeing to represent a Nigerian heir apparent trying to collect his “inheritance,” the lawyer arranged for certain of his other clients to loan money to fund the fraudster’s efforts. Not surprisingly, the Nigerian client, and the money, vanished. By all accounts, the lawyer had no knowledge of the fraud; he was duped just like everyone else. (Of course, had he been a loyal reader of the Risk Tip, he would have spotted the fraud a mile away.) But he did not disclose his own interest (he was handling the matter on contingency) and made no other effort to comply with Rule 1.8. Result? He was suspended for one year. You can read about it here.
What are some other examples of a “business transaction”? Taking an interest in a client’s business. Or taking money in escrow. Depending on teh circumstances, even facilitating an introduction between two clients could be considered such a transaction. A good rule of thumb is that if the transaction involves something other than rendering legal advice, Rule 1.8 may be implicated.
If you think you might be treading into the Rule 1.8 minefield, proceed with caution. And watch out for those slime block elevators.