January 31, 2008
The New York Appellate Division for the Second Judicial Department disbarred an attorney for, among other things, allowing non-lawyers to exercise control over his law practice. He had entered into a written agreement with a business to give the company "complete authority to accept or reject personal injury clients for him and to establish legal fees...[he] agreed to accept 10% of any contingent legal fee that he received while [the company] took 90%." He had no prior disciplinary history and a number of character witnesses, but:
"The respondent explained his reasons for expanding his practice into the personal injury field, his initially unsuccessful forays into the personal injury field at a time when his practice was not going well and he was in the midst of a divorce, and his discussions with non-attorney/medallion cab entrepreneur Simon Garber, which, unfortunately, developed into the business arrangement which led to this disciplinary proceeding. Although the respondent had some ethical concerns about the agreement he entered into, he admittedly did not do enough to resolve those concerns. According to the respondent, his lackadaisical approach to 'this patently foolish arrangement' was in sharp contrast to the manner in which he had previously and subsequently conducted his law practice.
Notwithstanding the absence of harm to any clients and the respondent's professed lack of venality, he is guilty of serious professional misconduct including allowing non-attorneys to exercise control over his law practice, maintaining escrow funds in a non-escrow account, and falsely holding himself out as an partner with another attorney who has since been disbarred. Despite the respondent's characterization of his ethical breaches as isolated misjudgments, it is evident from the time frame of the charges and his total abdication of control over his practice to non-attorneys, that the misconduct involved was pervasive. Under the totality of the circumstances, the respondent is disbarred for his professional misconduct." (Mike Frisch)
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