Ellen Brotman

With over 25+ years experience, Ellen Brotman began her career as a law clerk in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York. She has served as an Assistant Federal Defender in Philadelphia, PA and practiced in small, medium and large firms with a focus on criminal defense, appellate advocacy, professional responsibility and ethics. She has defended a wide variety of high-profile criminal cases, including political and public corruption, securities fraud, tax fraud, money laundering, currency structuring and other white-collar crimes involving complex trial, sentencing and appellate issues. Ms. Brotman also has extensive experience representing lawyers before the Disciplinary Board of Pennsylvania. She has been recognized as a Best Lawyer and SuperLawyer since 2007 in the area of criminal defense and has served on the boards of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. She is the founder and owner of BrotmanLaw, Philadelphia, PA.

What Must Lawyers Do to Protect the Rule of Law?

The country’s faith in these institutions, including our elections and our civil and criminal justice systems has eroded. How far has that erosion of faith gone? Can it be stopped? What is the role of lawyers in protecting the Rule of Law? Every day, we hear that the Rule of Law is under attack. The

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Disciplinary Docket: Trends for 2024

At this time of year, I usually write a column with a list of New Year’s resolutions for best ethical practices in the year to come. (You can see last year’s column packed with good intentions here.) This year, I’m departing from that tradition to predict the future in the field of attorney discipline. However, for those

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For Love or Money: Disciplinary Board Proposes Expansion of ‘Sexual Relations’ Definition

In the past, I have often described the Rules of Professional Conduct as the Emily Post Book of Etiquette for lawyers. The rules tell you how to treat clients, adversaries, judges, unrepresented parties and represented parties. The rules guide you to be a polite and efficient litigator and advise you how to begin a new client

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Yikes! ABA’s Latest Ethics Opinion Prohibits Nonrefundable Fees: Does It Change Things in Pa.?

Many solos and small firms charge their clients “nonrefundable” fees, intending to take an advance fee that can be used immediately to pay bills. In Pennsylvania, lawyers have termed these fees “nonrefundable,” and, have placed these funds directly into their operating accounts. In early May, the American Bar Association issued Formal Ethics Opinion 505, in which

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Jump into the Pool:Representing Multiple Witnesses in an Investigation

Over the past twenty years, government agencies andregulators have expanded their investigations of corporationsacross a broad spectrum of industries. These investigations ofcorporate wrongdoing have created a booming industry for big firmwhite-collar lawyers representing publicly traded corporations. As acorollary to this boom, small-firm and solo lawyers have taken onthe role of what has become known as

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An Unscientific Analysis: Who Gets Disciplined and Why?

There are 75,600 lawyers in Pennsylvania. Last year, 3,818 disciplinary complaints were opened, and 132 attorneys were disciplined. Based on these numbers, it is safe to say that most of you reading this column will never hear from the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, the investigating and prosecuting arm of the Disciplinary Board. Even fewer of

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New Year’s Resolutions for an Ethical and Happy 2023

It’s inevitable: the end of the year marks a time for reviewing your triumphs and your disappointments. This retrospection often leads to a determination to do better in the coming year. In that spirit I offer some New Year’s resolutions that I hope will be easy to keep and will enhance both your practice and

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The Importance of Private Discipline and Confidentiality in the Regulation of Attorneys

On Oct. 24, House Resolution 231 narrowly passed out of the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 13-12. The resolution is titled: “A Concurrent Resolution Encouraging the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to make the investigation and disciplinary process of lawyers more transparent.” This resolution is misguided, unnecessary and is a threat to the legal profession.The

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The Disciplinary Board as Regulator, Not Sanctioner: Advocating Wellness Practices to Avoid Misconduct

As part of a month-long campaign exploring lawyer well-being as misconduct prevention, the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania is providing interesting insight and strategies to help promote wellness and reduce stress amongst lawyers. They have published 4 articles as part of this campaign:   Why Does the Practice of Law Tend to

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Pennsylvania Judges and Ethics: There’s A Board for That!

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court https://www.pacourts.us/courts/supreme-court has created a Judicial Ethics Advisory Board. https://www.pacourts.us/news-and-statistics/news/news-detail/1101/supreme-court-of-pennsylvania-announces-membership-of-new-judicial-ethics-advisory-board The Board is populated with a diverse group of judges from across the state and across the levels of the judiciary. Similar to the Pennsylvania Bar Association and the Philadelphia Bar Association, the Board will provide advisory ethics opinions to Judges (privately) and opine about

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