Justice Johnson wrote for a unanimous court in In re Disciplinary Proceedings Against Hall to remind the Washington bar of a few fine points of ethics:

Do not draft estate documents that name yourself executor and trustee unless the client has explicilty and knowingly consented to it. (Even then, it’s a bad idea.)

If you do, don’t empower yourself to hire yourself as an attorney.

If you do hire yourself as attorney, don’t charge $8,000 a year to manage a trust with $49 in it.

If you do all that, and are caught by another attorney, don’t respond by showing up at the other attorney’s home to threaten her with the loss of her infant baby.

At that point, you really should not write a letter to that attorney referencing Nazi Germany and Communist Russia.

If you do all this, don’t be surprised if your license to practice law is suspended for two years.

The behavior at issue here was egregious. Yet, the path from a minor ethical lapse to career jeopardizing meltdown is both straighter and more easily traversed than most lawyers would care to admit. The real take away from this case is to remind lawyers to be punctilious about ethical considerations from the start of matters.  Because once you get hip deep in a problem, it’s all too easy to make the kind of bad choices that make for punchy blog post headlines.