Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Every Partner's Nightmare

The Kansas Supreme Court imposed an indefinite suspension of an attorney who had failed to represent a number of clients as a result of depression. The court notes the intervention of other attorneys in the firm:

The Respondent practiced law with Brad Medlin until July, 2005, when Mr. Medlin left the practice and moved to Florida. Thereafter, in September, 2005, the Respondent formed a partnership with Sarah A. Sypher.

The Respondent and Ms. Sypher remained as law partners from September, 2005, until April 20, 2007.

During the period of time the Respondent practiced law with Ms. Sypher, the Respondent failed to return telephone calls to clients, the Respondent failed to diligently represent clients, the Respondent failed to take necessary action in many bankruptcy cases and received 12 orders to show cause based upon his inaction, the Respondent accepted cases that he was not competent to handle, and the Respondent provided Ms. Sypher with false information regarding the status of cases.

On April 20, 2007, Ms. Sypher and Christopher Kuehn, an attorney, confronted the Respondent regarding the problems in his practice. Ms. Sypher and Mr. Kuehn encouraged the Respondent to seek assistance in handling what appeared to be personal problems.

At the hearing on this matter, the Respondent acknowledged that he suffers from depression, that he may suffer from attention deficit disorder, and that he is an alcoholic. Following his meeting with Ms. Sypher and Mr. Kuehn on April 20, 2007, the Respondent reported to Mirror's, Inc., for intensive outpatient alcohol treatment. The Respondent successfully completed the program and continues to participate in AA meetings. Additionally, after the Respondent ceased practicing law, the Respondent contacted Don Zemites with the Kansas Impaired Lawyers Assistance Program. The Respondent worked with Mr. Zemites in addressing his alcoholism until Mr. Zemites' death. Since Mr. Zemites' death, the Respondent has not sought or obtained assistance from the Kansas Impaired Lawyers Assistance Program.

The Respondent has not sought or obtained an evaluation or treatment for depression or attention deficit disorder.

After leaving the practice of law on April 20, 2007, the Respondent did not contact his clients, opposing counsel, or the courts in which he had pending cases to notify them that he would no longer be practicing law. The Respondent left the practice with the understanding that Ms. Sypher would take over the representation and assist his clients. The Respondent took no action to assist Ms. Sypher with the transition.

The course chosen by the partner here is far preferable to ignoring the issues in the practice. I have seen a number of cases where the failure to address the problems created by the non-functioning partner have led to disciplinary consequences for other lawyers in the firm. (Mike Frisch)


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