Tuesday, August 11, 2009
The web page of the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers reports on a recent informal admonition. The identity of the attorney is not disclosed in such circumstances:
ADMONITION NO. 09-12
Holding Out as a Specialist [Mass. R. Prof. C. 7.4(a)]
The respondent was admitted to practice in New York in 1991, and in Massachusetts in 2004. The respondent was employed as an attorney in New York, Beijing and Hong Kong from 1991 to 2002, but did not practice in the area of immigration law.
After moving to Massachusetts in 2004, the respondent opened his own law firm. Sometime thereafter, the respondent created a website for the purpose of advertising his legal services, and caused it to be disseminated on the internet. On the website, the respondent represented that he provided “professional legal services to American and international clients with respect to corporate and commercial transactions, small business matters and immigration law matters.” As of April, 2005, the respondent had represented only a handful of clients in immigration matters and did not have the experience of a specialist in the field of immigration law. The respondent had, however, attended continuing legal education courses on immigration law matters, and conducted self-study.
In April 2005, a Canadian citizen, who was residing and working in the United States as a dentist, learned of the respondent and his immigration practice through his website. The dentist was in the United States on a TN (nonimmigrant NAFTA professional) visa that was due to expire on January 15, 2006. The dentist was contemplating becoming the sole owner of the dental practice for which he worked. He engaged the respondent to advise him about his options for obtaining a visa that would allow him to do so.
The respondent conducted research on the relevant legal issues, but did not consult with a more experienced immigration law attorney before providing advice to the client. As a result of his lack of expertise, the respondent gave the client the erroneous advice to apply for a B-1 Business Visitor visa. The respondent advised the client that he could not engage in any unauthorized employment, but failed to advise the client that he could not continue to treat patients after his TN visa expired and while his B-1 application was pending. The respondent should have advised the client that a non-immigrant may not engage in productive work in the United States without a visa allowing him to do so.
As a result of the respondent’s failure to give the client adequate advice, the client illegally continued to treat patients after his visa expired. The respondent, on behalf of the client, subsequently applied for and obtained an E-2 visa that allowed the client to enter the U.S. to direct the operation of an enterprise in which he has invested.
By holding himself out as a specialist in immigration law, the respondent made a misleading statement about the extent of his expertise in that field, in violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 7.4(a).
The respondent had no prior history of discipline. He received an admonition for his conduct and has removed immigration law from his website and other public communications under his control as a field of law in which he practices.