Nov. 11, 2021

A Conversation With a Lawyer's Lawyer

We've talked to attorneys on this podcast who represent clients' needs in distinct, niche areas of the law. But what about lawyers? They're humans with needs and a few flaws, just like the rest of us. Who do they call when they need a lawyer to represent them? 

If they're smart, they will hire today's guest.

Meet Trisha Rich. A first-generation college graduate from a tiny town in Michigan, Trisha is a partner with international law firm Holland & Knight, based in Chicago and New York. Her practice focuses largely on legal ethics and professional responsibility matters, meaning she represents lawyers and law firms when they get into trouble or need legal assistance.  

But Trish''s devotion to the legal community doesn't stop there. She writes a column about professional responsibility ethics, teaches legal ethics at Northwestern Pritzker Law School and NYU, and co-hosts a Chicago Bar Association podcast. Oh, and she also helped create the Attorney Defense Initiative to help lawyers with disciplinary and wellness issues. 

None of it would have happened without a chance encounter she had while working at McDonald's in high school. Don't miss this episode.

Guest Insights

  • Describing her legal practice. [02:53]
  • The most common thing lawyers get in trouble for, and how it's actually three kinds of trouble. [03:42]
  • How lawyers violate Rule 1.6. [04:58]
  • Chronicling how online activity can land attorneys in hot water. [06:30]
  • Scrutiny, investigation, and prosecution of attorney misbehavior. [08:50]
  • Describing the numerous sources that generate attorney complaints. [10:00]
  • Representing lawyers who change practices or firms that break up requires. [11:20]
  • Advising attorney clients who are leaving their firms for other firms. [12:47]
  • Explaining how client choice is held sacred in practice law. [15:09]
  • Explaining legal technology companies and how Rule 5.4 reform affects legal tech. [17:24]
  • Growing up in Peck, Michigan, population 600. [22:32]
  • How a high school job at McDonald's led to college admission. [23:29]
  • Discovering a love of philosophy as a finance major. [24:59]
  • Completing law school and a master's degree in philosophy. [26:13]
  • Teaching legal ethics at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and NYU. [27:03]
  • How growing up in a small town informed her law practice, working with other lawyers in community. [28:49]
  • Writing a Practical Ethics column for the Chicago Bar Association Magazine and founding the Attorney Defense Initiative to help lawyers with disciplinary and wellness issues. [30:49]
  • Describing how many attorneys have emotional or mental issues that can drive success, but also lead to drug and alcohol problems to cope with the profession's stressors. [31:29]
  • Helping lawyers get into treatment and a legal assistance program can help them keep their licenses and keep some stability instead of losing their livelihoods. [33:34]
  • Producing the "Chicago Dish" podcast to review Chicago restaurants. [34:41]
  • Working on the production team of the Chicago Bar Association podcast, "At the Bar" [35:24]

Links From the Episode 


John Reed: [00:00:00] So much of what we talk about with lawyers on the podcast isn't taught in law school, especially the idea — the reality, really — that a law practice is a business. But unlike most other businesses, law firms face some pretty stringent regulations, like restraints on lawyer advertising, restricting ownership of law firms only to lawyers, and how lawyers solicit new clients.

[00:00:24] I had to take a professional responsibility class in law. And it struck me then that legal ethics rules were created by lawyers to protect the public from lawyers. Think about that for a sec. Do lawyers see themselves as so smart, so conniving, so manipulative that they, which includes me, have to safeguard laypeople from their devious ways?

[00:00:49] Full disclosure. I serve on a task force, reviewing legal ethics rules in my own jurisdiction. I've made my feelings known about the paternalism that I see in the rules. But that's just my two cents.

[00:01:01] Fortunately, there are lawyers who devote their practices to interpreting the ethics rules. Lawyers who advise other lawyers to avoid those pitfalls and defend them when they unknowingly, negligently, or stupidly violate their obligations. One of those lawyers' lawyers is our guest today.

[00:01:18] Tricia Rich is a partner with international law firm Holland & Knight, the national co-chair of its legal profession team, and the deputy professional responsibility partner for the firm's Chicago office. While her practice includes complex commercial litigation, her focus is on legal ethics and professional responsibility matters.

[00:01:37] Among her many outside activities, Trish sits on editorial boards of the American Lawyer and Law360's Legal Ethics Advisory Committee. She's active in the Chicago and New York City Bar Associations, and she's secretary and president-elect of the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers.

[00:01:53] Crain's Chicago Business has included Trish on one of its annual 40 Under 40 lists and twice in its annual Notable Women in Law editions. This year Law Bulletin Media selected her to its Top 50 Women in Law.

[00:02:07] Trish Rich, it is an honor to welcome you to the podcast.

Trisha Rich: [00:02:11] Well, thank you so much. It's an honor to be here.

John Reed: [00:02:14] And I wanted to let you know that because this is our 17th episode, it's my pleasure to inform you that you've been named to the list of the Top 17 Sticky Lawyers. So, congratulations.

Trisha Rich: [00:02:24] Thank you. I've listened to all of your episodes. So, it's a group I'd be proud to be in.

John Reed: [00:02:30] There is so much about you that we have to discuss. You have a great backstory as well as an alter foodie ego. So, this is going to be a lot of fun, but let's start with the legal ethics part of your practice.

[00:02:43] So I'm going to ask you this first, let's say you're at a cocktail party and somebody, not a lawyer, asks you what you do, how do you describe your practice to them?

Trisha Rich: [00:02:53] I always say I'm a lawyer, and I do two kinds of things. I do general commercial litigation, generally companies suing each other or companies being sued in some instances. The second thing I do, the thing I'm really, I think, well known for is that I'm one of the few people in the country who specializes her practice in representing lawyers and law firms and in-house counsel and legal tech companies. I explain this to people who aren't lawyers, as I say, think about the times where a lawyer or a law firm might need a lawyer. And in those instances, they hire somebody like me.

[00:03:32] The most basic example is when a lawyer gets in trouble from the bar disciplinary agency. They can get in trouble in more than one venue at once. And then I will stop, and I will ask them, "What do you think the most common thing lawyers get in trouble for is?" Rarely do people get this right. The most common thing that lawyers get in trouble for is stealing money from their clients.

[00:03:53] I will say, in those kinds of instances, a lawyer will get in three different kinds of trouble. There's a civil case; your client might sue you. There's a criminal case; you might get prosecuted. And then there's a bar regulatory case; the bar is going to come after you for your license because you stole money from a client.

[00:04:11] So that is the most obvious thing that a lawyer like me does for lawyers. A lawyer might need a lawyer for some other reason. They are defending a sanctions suit, or somebody moved to disqualify them. Or I will work for a law firm when they're having a dispute with one of their partners. A partner leaves and the law firm holds back certain amounts of compensation, and the partner thinks that he or she should have received that compensation. There will be things that arise there. I help law firms form. If somebody wants to start a law firm, if somebody wants to wind down a law firm, if somebody wants to sell a law firm, if two law firms want to combine, if you are a group of lawyers and you're moving to a new law firm, you will hire somebody like me to help you do that.

John Reed: [00:04:58] Let's say I go to a cocktail party, maybe the same one that you were just at. I have a couple fruity drinks with umbrellas in them. And I start to share confidential information about a client that I'm actively representing in, let's say, a divorce. Without question, I violated the attorney-client privilege and the ethics rules for the state in which I'm licensed to practice. Did I violate the state and federal law, too?

Trisha Rich: [00:05:21] The nuts and bolts of a violation like that, which by the way happens all of the time — lawyers get in trouble for this a lot — is really going to be your state's version of [Model Rule of Professional Conduct] 1.6. And what 1.6 tells us is that anything you learned that's related to the representation of a client needs to be kept confidential, and that's much broader than the evidentiary protection of attorney-client privilege. But you can also completely blow through attorney-client privilege in conversations like that. It's one of the big mistakes I see lawyers making out in the world.

John Reed: [00:05:56] So let's get to some other juicy stuff. Describe for us generally, not specifically — no names, no names — the stupid things that lawyers do that may prompt phone calls to you. Um, we've, we've talked about, we've talked about liberating clients' money conveniently, but what are some of the other things that happen?

Trisha Rich: [00:06:13] Obviously, stealing client money is a huge one, but think about any time you're a lawyer and you get in trouble. If you cheat on your taxes, if you get a DUI, if you hit your spouse, some of those are other big categories we see of lawyers getting into trouble. With the rise of social media, we see a ton of instances where lawyers get into trouble for things that they say online. Two big cases that came out in the last year, one from Tennessee and one from South Carolina, neither of which were my clients. But the lawyer in South Carolina got a six-month suspension because of a bunch of posts he made on Facebook about George Floyd's murder at the hands of Derek Chauvin and made a lot of comments about his feelings about that. Repeatedly called himself a lawyer in those comments, implicated his law firm, and had 46 different complaints to the state bar because of what he wrote.

[00:07:13] The lawyer in Tennessee got a four-year suspension. This is one of the most interesting cases from last year. What he wrote online, which was effectively a Facebook post where a woman was complaining about her soon-to-be ex-husband and started talking about whether or not she should carry a gun. And this lawyer on Facebook, in public, gave her advice about if she ends up shooting her ex-husband, here's how she wants to make it look like she was defending her castle under the "castle doctrine" and not like she was planning to murder him. And so that lawyer actually ended up with a four-year suspension. So, online bad behavior is still — lawyers are getting better at it, but we still see a few examples every single year of a lawyer doing something really stupid online.

John Reed: [00:08:01] We have some lawyers having inappropriate relationships with clients. How frequently is that popping up?

Trisha Rich: [00:08:08] There's always a few cases a year of a lawyer sleeping with somebody. For example, I just recently heard of one where a lawyer was sleeping with a guardian ad litem on cases that they were on and did not disclose that personal conflict of interest. I see a case or two every single year of a lawyer is sleeping with his or her clients, which in most jurisdictions is not allowed, unless under certain circumstances. It does come up a fair amount, actually. It's something that I wish I dealt with less, and it seems like the sort of thing lawyers should know better, but it keeps coming around.

John Reed: [00:08:44] So dumb lawyer does stupid thing. Who's lodging the complaint and to whom?

Trisha Rich: [00:08:50] In each jurisdiction, there is a state agency that oversees the investigation and prosecution of attorneys. In some jurisdictions, it's formed a little bit differently. Maybe they'll have more than one division, and in some states, it's all under one umbrella. But the basic scheme is going to be that you're going to have a state agency that investigates and prosecutes attorneys for violations of the rules of professional conduct.

[00:09:17] The complaints that go to that state agency can come from any number of sources. They can come from clients, they can come from co-counsel, they can come from opposing counsel, they can come from your colleagues, they can come from judges. And in lots of jurisdictions, including Illinois, which is my primary jurisdiction--although I'm also licensed and work in New York and Michigan--in Illinois, our agency, the ARDC can begin its own investigations based on anything it comes across. So, we will sometimes have investigations where somebody at the ARDC just read something in the newspaper about a lawyer behaving badly, and they opened an investigation based on a newspaper report.

[00:09:59] The source of the complaints can come from just about anywhere in most places. And in fact, I defended a lawyer earlier this year — defended her successfully — who had just received an anonymous complaint. When somebody files a complaint against you, you typically receive a copy of it, and so what we got was it was just on one side of a notebook paper. Somebody wrote this letter that made some very salacious allegations that were not true and then just signed it, "a concerned citizen." And that was enough in Illinois. It doesn't even have to be attributed to an actual person.

John Reed: [00:10:36] So much for knowing your accuser, I guess.

Trisha Rich: [00:10:38] Right. It's not the same sort of procedure. A lot of times, lawyers go into this and if you get a complaint, and it's your first one, they think about it as like a criminal defense proceeding. And it's not like that at all.

John Reed: [00:10:52] One aspect of your practice that I find really interesting is how you counsel lawyers and law firms to avoid screwing up, particularly as it relates to firms that merge or combine. Or attorneys or groups of attorneys that leave a firm to join another. That puts you in a particularly powerful position because if they engage you early on, you know who's going where before anyone else does. You have your own ethical responsibilities on top of that.

Trisha Rich: [00:11:20] It's kind of like being a legal recruiter in that sense. I often sort of know the law firms people are looking to get out of before it's widely known in the market because I get the same calls that recruiters get, and they're asking about their ethical obligations and how to comply as they start looking for other jobs. I always have to keep that under the vest. I'm not really allowed to share that for the same reason we're not allowed to share any of our other confidential information, but it is always interesting to me. I've been at Holland & Knight now for 16 years, but I have a long list of places that I would never go if I ever left Holland & Knight.

John Reed: [00:11:57] That's a job perk.

Trisha Rich: [00:11:58] Yes. I love having lawyers for clients because I feel like I really understand not only their business but the way that they think. And we just have a lot of common threads in the way that we all think. It's really intuitive to me to work with lawyers. But I really enjoy it as well because it's really interesting to me from an industry perspective to be able to look under the hood at so many different kinds of legal organizations and see what really works and what doesn't work and what could be done better. It's a very enjoyable part of my job.

John Reed: [00:12:30] Okay. Well, if you ever want to get into that consulting gig, I may know a guy.

[00:12:35] I'm feeling very law professor-ish today. Let's assume there is a group of ten or so attorneys that work for a big law firm, and they decide the grass is greener someplace else. Walk us through the steps that you would advise them to take to comply with their ethical requirements before departing or as they depart, starting with the choice to leave their current firm. What should they do, and what should they not do?

Trisha Rich: [00:13:01] Yeah, there's lots of pitfalls here. When you're moving a large group of people or high-dollar groups of people, a large transfer is going to occur out of a law firm. It's potentially very risky, and law firms now in their partnership agreements often have hold-back clauses where they can enforce groups of people or partners to stay up to 90 days in some instances. And they will sometimes try to exercise those clauses so they can have a chance at keeping those clients.

[00:13:32] In an ideal world, what will typically happen is a group of lawyers will be working with a recruiter. At some point, they realized that this is going to be a tricky situation either because it involves sensitive clients or it's going to involve a large number of people or a large number of dollars or some other reason. Sometimes, lawyers will be personally on the leases, or sometimes they will have pension payouts that they need to discuss, or them moving will effectively shut down the office of a firm.

[00:14:03] There's different risk factors that come into play. And so, one of the things you're looking to figure out is how risky is this move going to be. So, what typically happens is that a group of lawyers will be working with a recruiter. And at some point, they will say, "Hey, what are my obligations here? Do I need to hire a lawyer?" And a lot of recruiters will send their clients directly to me. I have relationships with recruiters all over the country. I will walk them through the process from the day that they give notice to the day the last file is transferred.

[00:14:38] Frankly, it even extends to far before they give notice because, in that time period, they have a bunch of fiduciary duties to their firms. They shouldn't be, for example, notifying clients. They shouldn't be talking to associates. They shouldn't be copying documents. We just had a big case out of Massachusetts last year where some departing partners copied a bunch of documents and got into a significant amount of trouble over that. My job is to just make sure that when my lawyers leave their law firms, they're not getting into trouble for anything like that.

John Reed: [00:15:09] A few years ago, there seemed to be a lot of rainmaker moves and small practice departures that led to some interesting allegations. That in some very rare instances, even though the departing attorneys cross their T's and dotted their I's and probably called you, they were later sued by the firms they left. And those firms claimed that the revenues lost when the clients moved with those attorneys was substantial enough that they could claw back the money that they lost. Is that a real thing, or is that a sour grapes kind of reaction?

Trisha Rich: [00:15:42] It's not often successful, but there are some claims that have some legs where law firms have tried to do exactly that. And it's a lot easier for them to do it when lawyers behave badly on their way out the door because it gets muddled in these breaches of fiduciary duty. But one of the things the practice of law holds sacred above almost anything else is the idea of client choice. We just absolutely believe in this idea that clients get to choose their lawyers and not the other way around. Even when a lawyer is walking out the door with a giant client and the firm says, "Hey, that's our client." And the lawyer says, "Hey, that's my client." Neither of those things are true. The client has agency, and the client gets to decide who their lawyer is.

John Reed: [00:16:35] You also advise in-house law departments and legal technology companies. What kind of counsel are you giving them?

Trisha Rich: [00:16:43] I get hired by law departments to do all kinds of things, to look at policies and make sure that things in the law department are running smoothly. I do a lot of education to in-house legal departments on issues that they face. Significantly, a lot of issues on maintaining attorney-client privilege in the in-house situation. That looks a little bit different than it looks in law firms. I've worked on agreements where two different companies share lawyers, for example. I've done several of those in the last year, actually. Their needs are a little bit different than that of law firms, but they still have significant reasons to hire somebody like me.

[00:17:24] For legal technology companies — that is an increasingly large part of what people like me do in relation to a few different things. Obviously, the world is becoming more and more technological every day. That has a huge effect, not only on how we interact with each other but the way the practice of law is developing. Coupled with that, we have some places around the country where we have seen some substantial reform to [Model] Rule 5.4.

John Reed: [00:17:54] For laypeople out there that specifically is what?

Trisha Rich: [00:17:57] Rule 5.4 — and you're going to hear more and more about this — really talks about the professional independence of a lawyer and whether or not the way that — we talk about it in the profession is — whether or not we can have non-lawyer legal service providers. I expect that we will see more and more legal tech companies get into the practice of law as a result of 5.4 reform. And so, I work with legal tech companies sometimes on all kinds of things and making sure that if they're providing or if they want to move into a market or if they want to open some sort of legal technology company, whether it's just an app, for example, that connects clients and lawyers, that they're complying with the rules that they need to comply with.

[00:18:44] There is a movement to bring more technological advances into the practice of law. But with it, the question is really, do we believe those things can and should be run by people who aren't lawyers? Do we believe that a venture capitalist firm could put together an app to connect lawyers, with clients, for example, and that that's not the practice of law? And if it is the practice of law, is that the sort of thing that only lawyers and law firms should be doing? There's a lot of debate around whether or not we believe this will plug a hole in what is colloquially referred to as the "access to justice gap." Some people think that it will, and some people think that it won't, but the fact remains that most people that need a lawyer cannot afford a lawyer. And if we want to change that as a profession, if we care about changing that as a profession, we have to change something. Something has to give.

[00:19:49] I'm in New York today, and you can always tell because it's like siren after siren. It's like an episode of Law & Order.

John Reed: [00:19:55] It makes it real. It makes the podcast real. We're not just doing this in a studio and making it all up.

[00:20:00] We're going to take a short break, but don't go anywhere. When we return, we'll learn about Trish's journey from small-town girl to nationally renowned lawyer, as well as her passion for food and a certain podcast she hosted. Stay tuned.

[00:22:14] Now, let's get back to our guest.

John Reed: [00:22:15] I'm delighted to be talking with professional responsibility attorney Trish Rich today. So far, we've talked about stupid lawyer tricks and how legal ethics impacts the business of law. Tell me about life in Peck, Michigan — population 632 or so.

Trisha Rich: [00:22:32] So, I grew up in a very small town in rural Michigan. I'm a native Michigander. If you've talked to me for more than about three minutes, I'm going to figure out an opportunity to like work in that I'm originally from Michigan. I'm very proud to be from Michigan. It's one of my favorite places in the whole world. I grew up in a small farming community up in the thumb.

John Reed: [00:22:54] Okay, you gotta hold your hand up. Hold your hand up.

Trisha Rich: [00:22:57] Yeah, I am! Very urban, I'm sitting in New York City right now, looking at the back of my left hand. No, that's absolutely right.

[00:23:09] If you look at your thumbnail and probably like the lower right-hand corner of your thumbnail on your left hand, that's probably about where I grew up. It was a little smaller when I was there. It's actually grown quite a bit at 600. We have one school there. K through 12 in one building, and I graduated from high school. I sort of always knew I would go off to college. I'm a first-generation college grad. But I really didn't know a lot of people that went to college. I didn't really know how to do that.

[00:23:50] My first job was at a McDonald's, and I was there one night, and a college admissions officer came in. Scott Hennessy is his name. We got talking, and he said, "Are you going to go to college? What year are you?" And I said, "I'm a junior." And he said, "Well, do you want to come to Western Michigan?" And I said, "Sure." I didn't have a plan, and I didn't really know what to do to go to college. But Scott told me at that McDonald's, "If you come to school at Western Michigan, I'll give you a job working in the admissions office." So, I said, "Great." And so that's what I did.

[00:24:22] The next year, I applied to one school, Western Michigan University. I got accepted right away. I went and I worked for Scott for three or four years while I was in college. I got my undergraduate degree there. And I loved it. I hadn't even been to Western before I enrolled in school there. I studied philosophy and business and economics —

John Reed: [00:24:44] Let's go back for a second. That's quite a mix. The business thing I get. And economics, I get too, but where does the philosophy come into play? Because this is going to be important, I think.

Trisha Rich: [00:24:56] It does end up being a very, very important thing in my life. Nobody in my family had graduated from college at this point, neither of my parents had, and pretty much everything I knew about becoming a business professional, I only sort of knew from television. So I go to college, and I'm like, what do people do that have jobs? People go to business school. So, I went to business school—all of my analysis. And I majored in finance, and it took me about two classes to realize that I was just totally inept at the sorts of things that you had to do as a finance major.

[00:25:34] And in the meantime, I had signed up for one philosophy course that fulfilled some sort of general requirement. I don't even remember what it was. But I absolutely loved that class. And I was like, "this is what I want to study." So, I just kept taking philosophy courses, and I really, really loved it. But I still had that thing in the back of my head that was like, "you gotta have a job when you leave this place." And so, I kept studying business. I picked up a minor in economics along the way. I just knew that I had to be versatile. I'd have to be able to find a job, but what I really enjoyed was studying philosophy.

[00:26:13] When I got all done, I wasn't sure if what I wanted to do was become a philosopher or a lawyer. I spent some time applying to both kinds of schools. I got into the University of Michigan Law School, and I decided to defer my admissions for a year and just hang out in Kalamazoo and take more philosophy classes. So, I started working on my graduate degree, and I spent another year at Western, taking graduate philosophy courses. About a year later, I moved to Ann Arbor and I enrolled in the law school. I hadn't finished my degree yet at Western Michigan, but I enrolled in the law school. I ended up finishing them in conjunction with each other during the next three years. And then, I graduated from law school and moved to Chicago.

John Reed: [00:26:59] And you taught philosophy along the way. Is that right?

Trisha Rich: [00:27:02] I did. Yeah, I taught philosophy at Western Michigan as a graduate student, and then I taught it as a graduate student lecturer at the University of Michigan. And now I teach law. I taught at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in the area of legal ethics. I now teach at NYU Law in New York City. I split my time now. I ended up getting married a couple of years ago to a guy who grew up in the Bronx in New York City. A guy that grew up in the largest city in the country and a girl that grew up in what has to be among the smallest towns in the country. And so, we now split our time between New York and Chicago. And so, I'm lucky enough to be able to teach at NYU during the spring semesters in legal ethics, which I love.

[00:27:46] It's always fun to take my husband back home to Peck. He learns something new every single time, but it's a good fit for our family because I know how to do a lot of things he doesn't know how to do from growing up on a farm. And he knows a lot of things about living in urban environments that don't come very naturally to me. So, it works out.

John Reed: [00:28:05] I think you have the upper hand.

Trisha Rich: [00:28:07] I do, too. Well, I'm the only one of us that can change a tire. So that's all I'll say.

John Reed: [00:28:12] I'm curious. How have your upbringing in Peck and your philosophy education informed your law practice? It seems like a good match for this idea of professional responsibility and professional ethics. But I'm wondering if you had that in mind as you got out of law school, had your philosophy degree, and determined what was going to be next for you.

Trisha Rich: [00:28:34] I didn't. I remember in law school, I took legal ethics with a guy named Len Niehoff, and I loved the class, but I didn't know that there were lawyers that did what I do. I had not put that together yet.

[00:28:49] So I will say, though, that growing up in a small place is a really unique experience. I had the sort of experience that people talk about growing up in the forties and fifties in, you know, this Norman Rockwell era. But I had that in the eighties and nineties because where I grew up is just so remote, and you end up with these small communities where everybody knows each other. People have been there seven, eight, nine generations. My family lives in the place that my family immigrated to when we came over from the continent. I mean, they're still there. You have these very tight-knit communities where people know each other and look out for each other and call on their neighbors.

[00:29:34] I feel that thread go through the law practice I have now because I believe that, as lawyers, that's what we should be doing, you know, we should be working together as a community to look out for each other, to help each other, to make sure that we're meeting our obligations to ourselves, to our colleagues, to the bar, and to our clients. I do feel like this idea of looking out for your neighbor is just a small-town value I grew up with. I will say as a resident of two very large cities now, I see that in the city too. But growing up in a small town is really is a different experience.

[00:30:13] With my philosophy background, the thing that brought me into philosophy in the first place was just this really deep fascination with how we treat each other, how we treat the world, how we distribute scarcity, those sorts of things. And there's a lot of common threads in the law. And so, it just ended up in what I think is just a really good place for the background that I have.

John Reed: [00:30:39] You also find time to give back to the profession in so many ways, but tell me about Practical Ethics as well as the Attorney Defense Initiative.

Trisha Rich: [00:30:49] Practical Ethics is my ethics column I write for the Chicago Bar Association's magazine, The Record. I actually just got tapped to do this. I am so excited about it. The Chicago Bar Association magazine has been going since — I wrote my first article on this, I said -- since I was in second grade. That's not hyperbole. And, so I am the third person to write this column and the first woman, and I was just beyond thrilled to have my own like mostly column where I can talk about whatever ethics issue I want to talk about. I'm looking forward to really connecting with a lot of the CBA members there.

[00:31:29] And then the Attorney Defense Initiative, I started this a few years ago, and it is the first privately sponsored pro bono organization in the nation that really attempts to help lawyers with disciplinary problems who also have wellness problems. One of the things we've seen in the practice of law is that we know lawyers suffer from alcoholism, anxiety, depression, etc., in rates not only higher than the general population but higher than all other professions. And, in fact, I just was at a conference last week, and I heard somebody reference a study that said, out of 104 professions, the legal profession was the only one that showed a positive correlation between being a pessimist and being successful.

[00:32:24] And that's a really alarming statistic, but one of the things that you see in the practice of law is that the things that make us have emotional or mental problems are also the things that drive success. You're a perfectionist, you're a pessimist, you're extremely competitive. And all of those things are not great personality traits but really good for keeping you at your desk and finding extremely small details or being very aggressive in a case or whatever. It's interesting, that correlation, but one of the other things we see in the practice of law is people turning to drugs and alcohol to help cope with the stressors of the profession.

[00:33:11] What we end up with is just a whole lot of lawyers that have mental health issues or substance abuse issues. When that happens, we see people's practices start to suffer. I help lawyers in those situations when their practices suffer to the extent that they have bar complaints. And I often will help them for free if our workload capacity allows it.

[00:33:34] When a lawyer truly does have a problem, taking away their license often, in my view, is not going to solve that problem. If we can help lawyers get into treatment, if we can help lawyers figure out the root cause of what's going on and help them fix it in conjunction with a legal assistance program, lawyer assistance program, or some other wellness program, I think that a lot of times, if a lawyer can maintain his or her license, that is going to offer them more stability rather than also losing their livelihood in a time when they might be suffering from some sort of mental impairment or substance abuse problem.

John Reed: [00:34:11] Yeah. And thank you for doing that. It is so important, and substance abuse, alcohol abuse in the profession is so rampant.

[00:34:19] All right. On a lighter note, I know it's a serious problem. But on a lighter note, there are two types of people in the world, those who eat to live and others like me who live to eat. I get the sense that you're on my team. And so, I wanted you to give us the dish on Chicago Dish and your foodie passions.

Trisha Rich: [00:34:38] Yeah. This is not my first podcast rodeo. I'm involved in the production of two other podcasts, and I'm going to plug them both here if you don't mind. The first one is Chicago Dish. My friend, Jackie, and I have a podcast where we go to Chicago restaurants then talk about it on our podcast. We're on hiatus right now. We had taken a quick break the fall before COVID started because I was getting married and she was having a kid, and then COVID hit, and we couldn't really go to restaurants anymore. And so, at that point, we thought about pivoting to doing takeout, but we didn't. In the worst parts of COVID, it was really hard to figure out how we could do that. We're hoping to, I think at some point, get that back up and running.

[00:35:22] And then my second podcast, I work on the production team for the Chicago Bar Association's podcast called At the Bar. So, I co-host, and I help figure out episodes and all sorts of things. And that's really fun too. It's a really cool legal podcast. I tend to gravitate towards the true-crime episodes. We did an episode just a couple of weeks ago where we interviewed the woman in Dallas, Michelle Shugart, who just prosecuted Dr. Death, if you saw that miniseries. I interviewed Amanda Knox's attorneys and the guy that prosecuted John Wayne Gacy. I've done a lot of episodes like that, that I find really interesting. The podcast is really cool. We get to do a lot of neat things and talk to a lot of cool people. We did an episode right after the election when Smartmatic sued Fox News regarding purported election fraud. We got to interview the guy that brought that lawsuit and talk about what his legal strategy was. And so, it's just a lot of fun. I actually just love podcasts. I like to have my hands on a few of them.

John Reed: [00:36:28] Trish, this has been great. I've learned a lot about legal ethics, as I'm sure our community of listeners has as well. In case anyone wants to learn more about you, we'll be sure to put the web addresses of your bio and your Chicago Bar Association column, and your Chicago Dish podcast and your Chicago Bar Association At the Bar podcast, your Zodiac sign. We'll get everything up there so people can follow you. So, I just, I just want to thank you. It's been my pleasure talking with you, and I'm so grateful for your time.

Trisha Rich: [00:37:04] Thank you so much for having me. It's been my pleasure.

John Reed: [00:37:06] And thanks to all of you for listening. Please be sure to check out other episodes for engaging conversations with attorneys who stand out. You can find them wherever you get your podcasts or visit, where you can also view episode transcripts, read about our guests and recommend a standout attorney who might be a future guest. Producing Sticky Lawyers is a labor of love that everyone at Rain BDM is excited and proud to do. Help us spread that love by telling your friends, your family, and your colleagues about the podcast and give us a favorable rating and review.

Until next time, I'm John Reed, and you've been listening to Sticky Lawyers.

Trisha RichProfile Photo

Trisha Rich

Legal Ethics Attorney

Trisha Rich is an attorney in Holland & Knight's Chicago and New York offices, the national co-chair of the firm's Legal Profession Team and a member of the Litigation and Dispute Resolution practice. Ms. Rich also serves as the Deputy Professional Responsibility Partner for Holland & Knight's Chicago office. Her practice focuses on legal ethics and professional responsibility matters and complex commercial litigation.