Past president Mark Longo presents ethics CLE at Columbian Lawyers Association meeting
The Columbian Lawyers Association of Brooklyn held its first monthly meeting under new president Joseph Rosato at the Rex Manor in Dyker Heights on Tuesday where the guest speaker was past president Mark A. Longo.
Rosato opened the meeting by thanking members for voting him in as president. He then held a moment of silence for Hon. Anthony Cutrona, known as the “heart and soul” of the Columbian Lawyers. Then he thanked Lucy DiSalvo, who, as he said, the monthly meetings would not be possible without.
Longo is a Brooklyn attorney whose practice concentrates on personal injury, tort insurance and other civil litigation as well as an attorney in grievance matters. He is a past president of the Columbian Lawyers of Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Bar Association, the Nathan R. Sobel Inn of Court and NYC Trial Lawyers Association. He’s also a past chair of the Grievance Committee for the 2nd and 11th Judicial Districts.
“We have a great program tonight featuring a wonderful CLE presentation by our past president Mark Longo on ethics,” Rosato said.
Longo’s continuing legal education (CLE) lecture covered legal ethics and the rules of professional conduct. Longo, who has given similar lectures many times in the past, joked that ethics CLEs are so unpopular that he once titled one “the CLE program that nobody wants to go to.”
“This is the kind of thing that we really don’t want to pay attention to, but if we don’t, then we’re in trouble,” Longo said. “What I want to do is to talk about the rules generally and some of the sections in the code of professional responsibility.
“They provide us with the mandatory standards that we have to live up to in comporting ourselves in an ethical way in the practice of law in New York,” Longo continued. “There are ethics opinions, ethical considerations that come out, but those are kind of aspirational. The only thing that is mandatory are the rules on professional conduct.”
As Longo went through the rules he put extra emphasis on attorneys keeping proper attention on their escrow and Interest on Lawyer Account (IOLA) accounts. He noted that this can be one of the most common reasons attorneys get into trouble with the grievance committee.
“An attorney has to have a specially labeled IOLA/Escrow/Trust account that is separate from the attorney’s business and personal account,” Longo said. “The funds have to be maintained separately. This is a place to plant your clients’ money. It doesn’t matter if no client got hurt, or you were really just neglectful. You can’t go back and say that it was all there when the client needed it. It doesn’t work that way.”
Longo also stressed that maintaining contact with clients and returning their phone calls in a timely manner is also a common way attorneys run into trouble with the grievance committee. He suggested a strategy that he uses in which lawyers make routine calls to clients to keep these clients updated on the latest details of their cases.
The biggest changes the grievance committee has made in the last 20 years, according to Longo, involve supervisory responsibility. He suggested that all lawyers make sure they know those rules.
“You are responsible for the people who work for you, and that goes even to the extent of confidentiality requirements,” he said.
The Columbian Lawyers will hold their next meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 2 at the Rex Manor. The speakers for that meeting will be Carmelo Crimald and Michael A. Scotto, who give a lecture titled “Italians in America — Victims of Discrimination and Advocates for Inclusion and Diversity.”
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