Ethics Credits: Ending the Procrastination

An experienced attorney focused on matters of corporate law, Dorianne Van Dyke is a graduate of NYU and New York Law School. Outside of work, she enjoys running, reading historical fiction, and watching documentaries.

It is both a well-known fact and timeless tradition that regardless of my good intentions, I never complete my CLE credits until the 11th hour of the given registration period.  As my registration deadline is close to Christmas, I often spend the holiday season listening to CLE programs while working from home, manically searching for whatever topic yields the most credits rather than focusing on topics of interest. I’m no family law attorney but you better believe I will be learning all about divorce and mediation if I can get 6 credits! Seeking to avoid the last-minute scramble and capitalizing on the fact that I can go nowhere in this pandemic, I have started early. A year early, to be exact. Rather than drive myself to the brink of insanity in December 2021, I turned my attention now to my arch nemesis: ethic credits. 

I’m not sure why I am so resistant to ethics and skills programming. As a member of the Practising Law Institute (“PLI”, if your nasty), I have enjoyed almost every program I have ever listened to or attended. Nothing has been so painful that I simply could not get through it and I always come away from the sixty minutes or so having learned more than I thought possible. This recent ethics excursion would be no exception. Yesterday, I committed an hour and some change to “Conducting an Internal Investigation” and I do not regret it. 

To be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect from this particular CLE segment. My only concern was that I would make it through the entire hour to get my coveted 1.5 credits. My expectations were exceeded. The whole program revolved around a hypothetical that allowed the panelists to dissect the situation and provide best practices and tips to attorneys who might find themselves in these types of situations. A few interesting points below:

1.     One thing that was demystified for me was the difference between attorney work product and attorney client privilege. Attorney client privilege governs communications between the attorney and client while the work product exception protects the work product of an attorney related to a specific manner in anticipation of litigation. You laugh as this seems obvious but some of us needed it spelled out! Having never been a litigator, these concepts tend to fuse in my mind. Attorney client privilege carries more weight and in the context of an internal investigation, a claim of the work product exception will likely be probed more extensively. 

2.     Another topic that was touched upon was when one should engage counsel or tech experts in fact finding during an internal investigation. The answer was surprising to me. Ideally, you do not want to bring outside counsel into investigations in the early fact-finding stage as it may be viewed as contentious. As an attorney, I always want approximately 56 other attorneys involved in every situation from preplanning to post-implementation. Apparently, this isn’t always so smart. 

3.     Document hold notices and preservation requests. I had never even heard of this let alone considered that there were best practices. Well, apparently any hold notice should be in writing, as detailed in possible and widely disseminated. Prior to circulating, you should also take steps to safeguard the hold notice from being shared broadly aka let peeps know not to share. You have to provide enough notice to ensure that you will actually be preserving what you are seeking to preserve and you can of course ask employees to keep things confidential. Any notice should include information related to how employees should conduct themselves particularly if contacted by a third party. That being said, you cannot forbid anyone from speaking to a third party even if you would prefer them come to you first. Preservation requests must be broadly distributed and should not include information that a person who not be expected to have access to. Now I’m not saying I am going to listen to another four CLE programs on internal investigations but I am saying that I enjoyed the one I listened to. I learned something.  Having spent over 10 years as an attorney, I tend to learn something new every day but that new thing usually lies within the sphere or technology or intellectual property. While not something I will likely encounter in my professional life, I appreciated the content none the less. Now if you will excuse me…I have some more ethics credits to fulfill.  

Who is Dorianne Van Dyke?

Who is Dorianne Van Dyke? That is usually the first question someone asks themselves when they visit an individual’s blog. Well, I am not sure anyone knows who anyone is in the philosophical sense (joke), but I can shed a little light on who I am professionally/personally and what I would like to achieve with this blog.

I am an attorney in NYC. I graduated from NYU and New York Law School. Aside from my day job, which takes up a bit of my time, I am also very interested in the arts and an avid reader.  I am a member of the Apollo Circle at the MET and a Tilden Conservator at the NYPL. I am also currently working on a women’s fiction novel now that is a fish out of water story. I love a good trope. (If you are looking for a writing class, I highly recommend Gotham).

Namaste or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Yoga

I have always been interested in yoga as a concept. The spirituality. The letting go and giving in to your breathe. The health benefits. The mat with a lotus on it. The Lululemon. In my mind, contorting one’s self into a pretzel seemed to denote some sort of status. “My name is Dorianne Van Dyke and I do yoga” would serve as code for “I am someone with a slightly curated Instagram that enjoys Diptyque candles and oat milk”. In essence, yoga would make me a millenial with “their life together”. 

Yoga, in practice, was another thing entirely. First and foremost, I AM NOT FLEXIBLE. Touching my toes is an act of pure torture and if ever there were a reminder of my body/flesh prison slowly aging, it is my pitiful attempt at shifting into extended triangle pose. I have all the elegance of Sandra Bullock when she first attempts to walk in heels in “Miss Congeniality”. She is beauty and she is grace. She is Miss United States.  Secondly, I loathe mental discomfort almost more than physical. Bobbling around in tree pose, in my head I keep asking “it is over?” As if hearing my inner my thoughts, the instructor always replies with “hold it”. Every second feels like an hour. Some people are better at relaxing and being in the moment. I am not one of those people. Last but certainly not least, I tend to lose interest in things that I am naturally not good at. If it doesn’t come easy, it likely isn’t going to come at all. I count failed attempts at learning how to ice skate and how to play the piano amongst the many things that immediately discouraged me. I have plenty of things I can’t do: I don’t need to be reminded of it in my spare time. 

So why then did I decide to start practicing yoga during the quarantine?

To be present. 

Coronavirus has created a state of constant uncertainty. If you are anything like me, you operate best with facts. Since the beginning of shelter in place orders, I have stated again and again that I would feel more relaxed if I just knew when everything would be over. When we would have a treatment. When we would have a vaccine. Several months later, we are no closer to answering these questions and I wasn’t getting any more zen. In fact, my anxiousness was increasing and my patience was almost non-existent.

Throwing a yoga mat down has brought me a sense of peace that I never imagined. In those moments where I am holding poses that I once found awful, I am present with my mind and body. I have no option but to breathe and let go of the lingering thoughts that have been traveling through my mind a million miles a minute. There might be some who are better mental multitaskers but I find it impossible to balance on one foot while also worrying about my taxes, when my office is reopening and who is going to win RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars. Nope. All of my attention must be focused on not doing my best little teapot imitation. It is a reassuring and calming feeling. I have also taken to repeating mantras. Saying a short phrase over and over assists in grounding me in the now. 

Yoga always had the ability to bring me the calmness and ability to cease my need to control that it had delivered to so many before me.  It just took a global pandemic for me to allow it. 

The Narrow Land Wins Award for Best Historical Fiction in 2020

Dorianne Van Dyke presently serves as counsel at Two Sigma Investments, LP, where she provides day-to-day legal support to the procurement and data strategy/data privacy group. In her free time, Dorianne Van Dyke enjoys learning about space and the solar system and reading historical fiction.

Each year since 2009, the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction has identified the best works of historical fiction published in English. To qualify as historical fiction, these books must contain storylines that mostly take place at least 60 years ago. To win the award, they must show quality, innovation, and durability. The winner of the prize receives 25,000 pounds sterling.

In 2020, Christine Dwyer Hickey won the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction for her novel The Narrow Land, which takes place in 1950 and focuses on American painter Edward Hopper and his wife Josephine who are spending the summer on Cape Cod. Hickey explores the complex relationship between the Hoppers, and also dives into their relationships with their next-door neighbors, who include two young boys.