QI am a third-year associate who, after getting off to a rocky start, knows the ropes fairly well now at a mid-size firm (about 200 lawyers). But I’m stumped on how to handle a potential ethical lapse. The firm has a client that is a regional seafood distributor, among other things. I was involved in a litigation matter for the client doing document review and interviews at the client’s site over an extended period of time. I developed a nice working relationship with one of the managers at the site and, after two months of what I would call harmless flirting, he ended up giving me a case of crabs.
I’m not making this up: an actual, physical case of crabs. He said it was worth $300.00 “on the market.” I was a bit taken aback but took the case and ended up taking it home (I wasn’t planning to return to the office that day). With what I estimated was 20 pounds of crab, over the weekend my fiance and I had a party that featured crabcakes, crabclaws, a crab boil, etc.
I didn’t tell the assigned partner on the matter. I just wasn’t thinking, though it’s not like I could go out and sell the crabs on the street. It’s been two weeks now and things are fine, but it still sort of gnaws at me that I made an ethical lapse. What should I do?
ANormally I wouldn’t advise an associate to come clean to a partner about a case of crabs, but this case offers at least one remarkable exception to that rule. Come clean. Tell the partner that you got a case of crabs, how you got it, and what you did. In fact, after only two weeks, you may be over-thinking this. But there are at least two issues to discuss, along with offering up your mea culpa:
My guess is, once you tell the partner, you’ll both laugh about it. I am. It’s the first actual case of crabs I’ve come across in practice, and that’s saying something.