Monday, November 24, 2008
In a case involving ethics charges against an attorney in his capacity as owner of an entity that acted as a title agent for a title insurance company, an Illinois hearing board recommended that most of the charges be dismissed. The hearing board further proposed that the suspension proposed by the Administrator be rejected in favor of a public censure.
The lawyer had advertised for business, as the hearing board found, with the following ad:
A Private Invitation
To Save Hundreds of Dollars on
Your Home Closing
Our specialized law firm will close you
Home sale for a fixed legal fee of $175
Start to Finish
At One Affordable Low Fee
Buyer/Seller Negotiations Through Closing
Title Order and Review
Complete Document Preparation
Schedule and attend closing as your legal representative
Respondent did not disclose his separate charge for "title review fees" which he advertised as included in the legal fees for representation. Respondent also did not disclose his involvement in other fee generating activities and did not disclose the potential for a conflict of interest that he had in entering into a business transaction with a client without informing the client of his financial interest in the entities that conducted those fee generating activities. Respondent omitted to disclose that title service fees, performed by Title Fees, and survey fees, performed by We Survey, were additional charges by companies he owned or in which he had a financial interest.
As a result, there were four instances where the attorney had breached his fiduciary duties in the closings. However, the hearing board rejected a laundry list of additional charges including undue influence, overreaching in the attorney-client relationship and dishonesty. (Mike Frisch)