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    September 30, 2015   
Past Issues   

ISBA BOG acts on legislative agenda items, legal forms, at quarterly meeting

During the fall ISBA Board of Governors quarterly meeting in Coralville, the BOG acted on numerous section recommendations for the 2016 ISBA Affirmative Legislative Program, continued to examine and further efforts to energize member engagement and approved recommended non-substantive updates to ISBA legal forms. The governors also welcomed leaders from University of Iowa College of Law, Drake Law School, Creighton School of Law, Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady and State of Iowa District Court, Fifth District Chief Judge Arthur Gamble.

ISBA sections that provided recommendations for the 2016 ISBA Affirmative Legislative Program include the criminal law, business law, family and juvenile law, probate, trust & estate planning and real estate and title law sections. Also, governors acted to support full funding of the judiciary’s budget for equipment needs in accordance with the state’s statutory obligation.

ISBA President Bruce Walker’s report included remarks on the ISBA’s response to the Iowa Supreme Court’s request for comment on adoption of the Uniform Bar Exam. He also commented on student loan debt and information pertinent to member engagement. ISBA Assistant Executive Director Harry Shipley presented the executive director’s report which included information about membership trends. He also presented an overview of new and enhanced member services, including potential child support calculator models and law practice management resources.

Additional coverage of the fall quarterly meeting will be included in the November/December issue of the Iowa Lawyer Magazine. More information about ISBA sections, committees and fast action teams focused on member engagement will be included in upcoming ISBA publications. The members of the board of governors, ISBA officers and leaders welcome questions and input from members. Contact information for governors and other leaders can be found here.

Iowa Supreme Court adopts amendments to trial scheduling/discovery plan forms

The Iowa Supreme Court last Friday temporarily adopted amendments, effective immediately, to the Trial Scheduling and Discovery Plan Forms 2 and 3. The forms are contained in the Iowa Court Rules, Chapter 23, Time Standards for Case Processing.

The amended forms are used in conjunction with the recent discovery rule amendments and the new expedited civil action rule in the Iowa Rules of Civil Procedure. The amendments will assist attorneys and clerks of court in using the forms to set pretrial deadlines for discovery matters.

The amended forms will take effect permanently on Nov. 25, subject to legislative council approval consistent with the provisions of Iowa Code section 602.4202. Fillable and savable versions of the forms will be posted soon, according to the judicial branch website.

Changes to the forms are highlighted in yellow. Click on Form 2 to see the changes. Click on Form 3 to see the changes to it.

Why attorneys should use engagement letters

The ISBA’s endorsed professional liability insurance carrier, Lockton Affinity, LLC, is offering information to members on various areas of law practice in conjunction with its endorsed carrier, CNA. One of those practice areas is use of engagement letters.

"Documentation of the attorney-client relationship constitutes a critical risk control technique for law firms,” states the opening sentence of a paper entitled: "Better with a Letter: Why Attorneys Should Use Engagement Letters.” The introductory paragraph goes on to say: "Memorializing the nature and scope of the attorney-client relationship with a thorough, well-written engagement letter will help resolve potential misunderstandings and also serve to establish good communications throughout the course of the relationship. Moreover, in the event of an attorney-client dispute, an engagement letter may protect an attorney in the event of an unwarranted legal malpractice claim.”

Citing specific court cases related to the various elements, such as scope of representation, identity of the client and payment of fees, the document illustrates how the court ruled in each case based on the contents of the engagement letter. In some cases, the court ruled in favor of the law firm because of a well-written engagement letter; in others the court ruled against the firm because the engagement letter was too vague to absolve the firm from responsibility.

The paper is one of several created by the lawyers who work for CNA to provide risk management and loss prevention services to attorneys insured by Lockton. To read the entire paper, click here. For more information, contact Mike Schrandt, senior account manager, Lockton Affinity, LLC; Phone: 800-679-7154; Fax: 913-652-4682; Email:

ISBA to host Kosovo dignitaries Oct. 7

The Iowa State Bar Association will host a delegation comprised of five members of Kosovo’s Parliament Wednesday, Oct. 7, from 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. at bar headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa. ISBA members who would like to meet the delegates are welcome to attend the meeting.

The delegation, which will spend a week in Des Moines, is interested in learning about the basic organization of the association, its mission and such things as services provided to members and the public and the association’s process for determining legislative issues and prioritizing and working to get those issues passed into law, says Dennis Dietz, chair of the Kosovo Committee for Iowa Sister States. Iowa Sister States is hosting the delegation through the Open World Leadership Program.

The delegation's interest in the ISBA’s work dovetails with their overarching interest in how state government is structured and the processes that make it work. Their focus is on accountable governance. As such, they will be meeting with a variety of organizations during their visit.

If you plan to attend the meeting, please let Dwight Dinkla, ISBA executive director, know you’ll be attending. He can be reached at


Lawyer/author to lecture on equal justice Sunday

The University of Iowa Center for Human Rights (UICHR) at the College of Law is hosting a lecture by author Bryan Stevenson from 2-4 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 4, in the Memorial Union’s main lounge. Stevenson wrote the New York Times bestselling book "Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption,” which details a young lawyer’s transformation in his understanding of mercy and justice as a result of defending poor and wrongly condemned individuals.

Stevenson founded, and currently serves as executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative. According to the UICHR website, the attorney and law professor has "won relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, argued five times before the supreme court and won national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of color.”

His appearance is part of the Iowa City Book Festival in conjunction with UICHR and the Geneva Lecture Series powered by the Geneva Campus Ministry. The lecture is free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Joan Nashelsky at or 319-335-3900.

Supreme Court to hear oral arguments in Newton Oct. 14

The Iowa Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of Hutchison, et al. v Warren County Board of Supervisors beginning at 7 p.m., Oct. 14, at the Newton High School Auditorium, 800 East 4th Street South in Newton, Iowa. A public reception with the justices will follow the oral arguments in the Newton High School commons.

The Hutchinson case involves former Warren County employees contending that the county board of supervisors violated Iowa’s open meetings law when individual supervisors met separately with the county administrator, who was serving as a go-between, to discuss a proposed restructuring of the county workforce. The district court ruled there was no open-meetings law violation because there was no gathering of a majority of supervisors. The high court is being asked to determine whether "walking quorums” or "serial communications” constitute a "gathering” within the definition of "meeting” in Iowa’s open meetings law.

Attorneys’ briefs for the case and a guide to oral arguments are available on the judicial branch website here.

Iowa Finance Authority interim director named permanent director

Tara Lawrence has been named director of Title Guaranty - Iowa Finance Authority. She has served as the interim director since May 1. Prior to that, she served as the director of commercial services for the agency since 2012.

Before working for Iowa Finance Authority, Tara was an associate at Whitfield & Eddy, P.L.C., in Des Moines, Iowa, practicing primarily in commercial real estate, business and banking law. She has been a member of the ISBA’s Real Estate and Title Law section since her admission to the bar in 2009.

Nuts and Bolts Seminars to be held Friday and Monday

The 2015 Nuts & Bolts Seminars will be held this Friday in Coralville, Iowa, and on Monday in Johnston, Iowa. The Coralville seminar will be at the Holiday Inn, 1220 1st Avenue, and the Johnston seminar will be at the Hilton Garden Inn, 8600 Northpark Drive.

Both seminars begin at 8:30 a.m. with a session on ethics and trust accounts and end at 5 p.m. The afternoon sessions at both seminars will be divided into litigation and transactional tracks. Lunch is not provided with registration.

To register for the Coralville seminar, click here. Register for the Johnston seminar here. Registration deadline is tomorrow, Oct. 1. A $50 late fee will be added to the registration fee for registrations made after Oct. 1.

Reminder: Free Criminal Law Summit to take place tomorrow at UNI

The daylong bipartisan summit on criminal justice will be held at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa, tomorrow (Oct. 1). The summit will address disparities in justice for minorities and others, such as the mentally ill and the homeless.

Eight speakers, including Iowa Representative Helen Miller; Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of Koch Industries, Mark Holden, and CNN political contributor Van Jones will address the various issues with a twofold purpose of creating awareness of the issue among all Iowans, and serving as a call and guide to action for the legislature, the executive branch, the judiciary and community stakeholders, according to Representative Miller, who has organized the summit with the assistance of advisory and planning committees.

Registration, which is free, opens at 7:30. The summit begins at 8:30. For more details about the schedule, speakers and supporting organizations, go to the summit’s website.



In Other News ...

Law removing felons' voting rights is upheld
A state judge has upheld a state law that disqualifies felons from voting but said the state Supreme Court needs to sort out the confusion it caused last year when it ruled not all felons are automatically disenfranchised.
The Des Moines Register

Ralph Nader builds shrine to tort law
Consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader recently opened a museum filled with items like defective toys and unsafe machines all tied together under a unifying theme: tort law.
Iowa Public Radio

Midwest Innocence Project commemorates Wrongful Conviction Day, announces new partnerships & hair review project
The Midwest Innocence Project (MIP), a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to the investigation, litigation and exoneration of wrongfully convicted men and women, announces today that Friday, Oct. 2 marks the second-annual, international Wrongful Conviction Day. To commemorate the day, the MIP also announces new partnerships that expand its services to Iowa and Nebraska in addition to Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas, as well as a new hair microscopy testing project.

The Iowa Lawyer Weekly is an electronic newsletter published every Wednesday. Please submit comments, letters to the editor, articles, or photos, to Contact information should be included with submissions. The ISBA reserves the right to refuse any submission, but will take all submissions into consideration for future publication.



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