Wednesday, January 16, 2008

It's Hard To Supervise An Incarcerated Paralegal

An attorney with a previous record of a public reprimand was suspended for 60 days by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The attorney was appointed to represent a defendant who was eventually sent to prison. While the client was incarcerated, the lawyer hired him as a paralegal:

"In late 2001 or early 2002, while incarcerated, J.M., a former paralegal, informed Attorney Compton that he would be interested in doing legal research work for Attorney Compton. In January 2002 Attorney  Compton made arrangements whereby J.M. would perform legal research for him. Attorney Compton
forwarded a case file to J.M. at the Dodge Correctional Institution without his client's prior knowledge or approval. J.M. performed legal research on this file for Attorney Compton. The referee specifically found that while J.M. was incarcerated, Attorney Compton did not have effective procedures in place to supervise J.M., to ensure that his conduct was compatible with Attorney Compton's professional obligations, or to ensure that J.M. would be able to maintain the confidentiality of the client matter while working from prison."

The lawyer continued to employ J.M. after he was released. The lawyer was found to have failed to adequately supervise his paralegal. However, the court noted the finding that the work of the paralegal was well-performed: "while not excusing the ethical violation or the potential harm to clients, the referee did note that J.M., a former paralegal, apparently performed competently and obtained 'good results' for the clients."

More serious misconduct was involved when the lawyer billed 120 hours of the paralegals time as his own, receiving $4,800 in court-approved fees as a result of false representations. After the misconduct was discovered, he self-reported to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. One might think that a fraudulent misrepresentation to obtain unearned fees from public funds, committed by a lawyer with a prior record, merits more than a 60 day interruption of practice. (Mike Frisch)

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Comments

I believe that as long as the attorney tells the paralegal what to do and the attorney reviews the finished product of that paralegals work before it is used for the benefit of the attorney’s client, there should not be an issue on supervision, regardless of where the paralegal is located. Independent paralegals have attorney clients all across the country and the majority of these paralegals have never met their attorney client and they are given assignment via fax, mail, Internet, and email. The attorney tells them what he wants done over the phone or by some other form of communication and the attorney reviews the paralegals work product before he uses it for the benefit of his or her client.

Posted by: Joel Irving | Jan 26, 2008 11:17:07 AM

I agree with Joel. Either the attorney supervised the paralegal or he did not. The location of the paralegal seems unrelated to that question. Of course pawning the work off as his own, and charging for it as if he spent hours on it, is another issue. But the bar should not make a statement that inmates cannot be paralegals as if they could never be supervised.

Posted by: Alan Childress | Jan 26, 2008 12:25:59 PM

The finding on which the failure to supervise charge was sustained reads as follows:

"The referee specifically found that while J.M. was incarcerated, Attorney Compton did not have effective procedures in place to supervise J.M., to ensure that his conduct was compatible with Attorney Compton's professional obligations, or to ensure that J.M. would be able to maintain the confidentiality of the client matter while working from prison."

Posted by: Mike Frisch | Jan 26, 2008 2:31:44 PM

>>>>>Of course pawning the work off as his own, and charging for it as if he spent hours on it, is another issue<<<<<<

Yes, an issue which confirms lawyers are amoral scumbags who do not hesitate to engage in deceptive conduct. In this case OVERBILLING. This is yet another example of an unethical lawyer representing the work product of a laymen as their own. Lawyers are disgusting parasites who consistently rank amoung the least trustworthy profession in polls, alongside used car salesman. I devoted over 100 hours to develop a class action case against a prominent mass retailer for overcharging, which was stolen by a gang of thieves with a license-to-steal, after presenting the case with intentions to serve as class plaintiff. These bottom feeding mofos eventually filed the case in a different state where they maintained an office. They did not hesitate to steal my work product due to the fact the "disciplinary commissions" which supposedly regulate this profession typically ignore criminal conduct. Research has confirmed 1 or 2 percent of complaints are acted upon, and that typcially involves a secretive wrist slap.

Question: What is the most prudent course of action if you are trapped in a room with a rabid pit bull, a convicted serial killer and a lwayer...and your gun only has two bullets?

Shoot the lawyer twice.

Posted by: SuperGLue | May 7, 2008 7:21:27 AM

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