Ethical Considerations in §1983 Practice: Retainer Structuring and Client Counseling

(891 Ratings)

Produced on: January 23, 2017

Course Format On Demand Audio

Taught by


Course Description

Time 90 minutes
Difficulty Intermediate

Plaintiffs in §1983 civil rights actions against state and municipal actors are often persons who have been profoundly traumatized by agents of the government, and as such present unique counseling challenges for litigators who would seek to zealously represent their interests. Compounding these challenges, 42 USC §1988 provides for fee-shifting in the discretion of the Court for prevailing parties in §1983 actions. While this “private attorney general” fee-shifting statute enables attorneys to represent otherwise indigent civil rights plaintiffs in meritorious cases, it also presents significant ethical issues for retainer structuring in §1983 matters.

In this course, we discuss the ethical considerations and practical skills that are necessary for attorneys to provide effective counseling to §1983 Plaintiffs in the course of retention and various case decisions in the lifespan of §1983 matters. We review carefully prepared retainer provisions that will permit attorneys to seek fees on behalf of their clients if circumstances allow, while providing for a contingent fee recovery if an award of fees is unavailable or undesirable to the client.  

This course, presented by Samuel B. Cohen, noted New York §1983 practitioner, provides practitioners with important ethical guidelines for client counseling, tested sample retainer provisions for review and adaptation, and a guide to some of the common ethical pitfalls of §1983 practice.

Learning Objectives: 

  1. Identify overarching ethical considerations in §1983 client counseling
  2. Obtain an overview of retainer structuring in mixed fee-shifting/contingent matters
  3. Gain skills for managing client expectations in litigation
  4. Explore policy considerations in §1983 client counseling


Samuel B. Cohen

Samuel B. Cohen Law

Samuel B. Cohen is an attorney and counselor at law, admitted to practice in the State Courts of New York, the Federal Southern and Eastern District Courts for New York, and the Federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals. He received his Juris Doctor degree from Brooklyn Law School, and a Bachelor of Arts in the Social Sciences from Hampshire College.

Samuel began his legal career as a litigation paralegal at the law firm Jaffe & Asher LLP, and served as the legal affairs director for the New York Dance Parade during law school, where he conducted independent studies in intellectual property issues, and received an award for research work in mixed for-profit/non-profit entities. Hired first as a clerk and then as an associate by prominent New York attorney Wylie M. Stecklow, Samuel discovered an aptitude and passion for civil rights litigation, and quickly rose to prominence among the civil rights bar.

Samuel lives with his wife, their devoted Boston Terrier “The Frances,” and two black cats, “Biggie” and “Puck.” He is an avid traveler and reader who enjoys finding interesting street art and exploring new places.


Sheila B.

Really good presenter!

Zachary S.

Terrific presenter.

Joyce K.

well done

Eduardo L.

Excellent points on fee structuring.

Robert K.

Excellent presentation by a knowledgeable instructor who imparted very useful information beyond that which is contained in the law itself.

David G.

Would love to work w this guy.

Samuel S.

Excellent course.

Melvin Duane C.

Mr. Cohen made me feel good about being a lawyer again.

Richard A.

Excellent presentation.

Marjorie H.

Inspiring presenter.

Richard A.

Good practical information.

Bonnie C.

Great presentation!

Joann B.

Best speaker I have heard so far in my use of Lwwline - very informative and practical

Benjamin H.

very interesting. I enjoyed the presenter.

Jody L.

Excellent Course.

Suzanne M.

Love him

Daniel M.

Fantastic presentation...

Michael B.

He kept my attention.

Amy E.

Well presented. Important information

Kathleen Lewis B.

This lecturer was better than most Lawline lecturers in my opinion. I don't do this kind of practice but I was interested because I found him to be knowledgeable and extremely ethical.

Migdalia C.


Robert D C.

Mr. Cohen's presentation was excellent!

Ernest P.

I have practiced as a defense attorney in 1983 cases. I was extremely impressed with Mr. Cohen. If the demeanor, level of knowledge, and reasonable attitude that he demonstrated in the video are an accurate reflection, then he is a credit to the practice in New York. Well done.

Michael M.


Lourdes G.

Very well done!

Irina K.

Great topic. Mr. Cohen made some excellent points.

Katrenia G.

The Instructor was excellent.

Nathan F.

As a former section 1983 practitioner who hasn't practiced in a while, I found this information very helpful and well-presented.

Jakki H.

Loved it! Great speaker, great content.

george h.

The presenter offered his personal perspective on many salient issues regarding clients' retainers. This was a fascinating course for me to view. Thank you.

Brenda W.

I really enjoyed this speaker. The only comment that was disturbing to me was his comment about his Brooks Brothers suit. I found that distasteful for a civil rights topical seminar.

Richard M.

Sam Cohen did an excellent job in covering the 42 U.S.C. 1983 requirements.

Jeffrey M.

Well done

Christopher B.

I don't practice in the area of section 1983 but still found the advice given by the presenter to be very relevant and meaningful. Excellent presentation!

Christopher K.

great presentation

nancy d.


Jennifer F.

excellent speaker. need to have him back again.

William B.

Great program, thank you!

David B. M.

Well, done, very clear.

Richard A G.

Great practical advice and well presented.

James D.

Samuel Cohen is an excellent presenter, very knowledgable and warm and friendly.

Gary T.

Well done!

Cecilia C.

It was helpful to hear the practitioners' stories about how he handles these matters and communicates with clients.

Richard C.

Excellent presentation and Samuel was well informed. A must for any practitioner.

Mario L.

Best course. Period

Harry B.

Mr. Cohen did an excellent job. Makes me wish I did more of his type of practice.

Alexandra R.

Very good detailed and solid civil rights litigation ethics advice.

Julie A. B.

Enlightens, exposes, and explains. Speaker has the intensity of an eagle diving for a fish in a lake. Watch for Cohen’s other superb Lawline program, “An Introduction to §1983 Civil Rights Pleading Practice.” But why wait? This one’s here now, and it’s a home run.

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$ 89 Ethics, Constitutional Law, Civil Rights, and Public Interest Law In Stock


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