Monday, February 9, 2009

Failure To Withdraw

An Illinois hearing board has recommended a three-month suspension of an attorney who failed to withdraw from two matters in circumstances where the cases were ongoing and the clients were relying on the attorney to continue to represent them. In one matter, the board noted:

Respondent argued that he was unaware of his responsibility to withdraw from Jeffery's divorce proceeding. We do not find this argument plausible. Even if Respondent was unaware of his duty to withdraw, he still made no effort to contact Jeffery or forward the documents and correspondence Respondent received from opposing counsel regarding the divorce proceedings to him. Respondent knew Jeffery was not receiving notice of the proceedings because opposing counsel directed all of his correspondence and filings to Respondent. In fact, opposing counsel informed Respondent of his responsibility to withdraw from the case if he was not going to represent Jeffery. The evidence showed Respondent had numerous means of locating his client, but he made no effort to contact Jeffery and inform him about the case.

The board found that both clients had been harmed and that the attorney had shown no remorse:

Respondent neglected two client matters by failing to withdraw from his clients cases, caused harm to his clients, blamed his clients for not communicating with him and failed to demonstrate any remorse or understanding of the gravity of his actions. Respondent did not present any significant mitigating evidence. Respondent also characterized his actions as the mere errors of an inexperienced attorney when in fact he had been practicing for 10 years at the time the misconduct took place. In sum, Respondent failed to show the panel that he understands his duties and responsibilities under the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct.

Considering the nature of the Respondent's misconduct, the evidence in aggravation and the lack of any significant evidence in mitigation, this Panel recommends Respondent be suspended for three months and until he completes the ARDC Professional Responsibility Institute.

(Mike Frisch)

February 9, 2009 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

IOLTA Notice

The web page of the Illinois ARDC has a notice regarding FDIC coverage of IOLTA and low-interest trust accounts:

In a nutshell: The FDIC is now offering unlimited deposit insurance coverage for all IOLTA accounts and any NOW accounts with interest rates no higher than 0.50 %, including Client Trust Accounts through December 31, 2009. Other Client Trust Accounts, both interest and non-interest bearing, continue to have the maximum pass-through coverage of $250,000 per client who has funds in the account.

The notice has a link to the FDIC web page. (Mike Frisch)

February 9, 2009 in The Practice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Car Trouble

From the California Bar Journal:

[An attorney] was suspended for two years, stayed, placed on three years of probation with an actual 18-month suspension and was ordered to prove his rehabilitation, take the MPRE and comply with rule 9.20. The order took effect Sept. 7, 2008.

In 2007, [the attorney] pleaded no contest to receiving stolen property, a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude.  

For several months in late 2005, he kept at his home a car that was stolen by his son, who told [him] he had bought the car for $500 from its owner. The car was not street legal because of body damage, so [he], who believed his son, agreed to store it in his garage. He later discovered his son obtained the car after promising to have it repaired and to pay the registration fees and register the car in the name of the owner’s daughter. The promises were false.

Following his plea, [he] notified the bar of his conviction.  

He was privately reproved in 1982.

In mitigation, he cooperated with the bar’s investigation, pleaded no contest to the charge and self-reported to the bar.

(Mike Frisch)

February 8, 2009 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

The CEO Feedback Loop and Corporate Governance

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw

Once again, I marvel at the lessons available to us from John Thain's odyssey through Merrill Lynch.  (I guess I'll be off his Christmas Card list.  Oh well.)  Today's discussion in the New York Times business section is an exemplar of what I call the "CEO Feedback Loop," which in turn is a particular variant of the "Authority Feedback Loop" which in turn is made intractable by the "Learning/Leadership Paradox."  Consider this a bookend post to yesterday's screed on sufficient reason.  The problem with cor51wz0nx9nvl_bo2204203200_pisitbsticporate governance theories, and leadership generally, is that there is no algorithmic solution to any of these (paradoxes being, as they are, structurally resistant to algorithmic models).  I'm left with the view that the only way out is what cognitive theorist Mark Turner calls conceptual blending, but with an empathetic kicker.  In management consulting jargon, those are "learning organizations."  Peter Senge described them back in the 1990s (in his book The Fifth Discipline) as "Organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to learn together."

Here's the Authority Feedback Loop issue.  Assuming you've become the leader as a result of your good judgment (the causal direction being "good judgment yields leadership").  This, of course, itself can be unpeeled to the observation that there seemed to be a correlation between good results and the timing of those results being on your watch.  Hence, your good judgment caused the results, hence you have acceded to a position of leadership, like CEO, law school dean, or Scoutmaster.  Now, it seems to me, empirically speaking, we observe the feedback loop take effect in the form a tendency to see the causation link within the correlation to be blurred, if not reversed.  That is, the thought process goes from "I'm the leader because I have made good judgments" to "I make good judgments because I'm the leader."  Thus, it's far easier to rationalize decisions like "let's spend a million dollars on my office furniture" or "let's give me a bonus for completing this deal which I'm already paid for in my salary and incentives."

It's easy to be cynical (and funny) about this, but the Feedback Loop has a serious genesis in the Learning/Leadership Paradox.  I saw this just a week ago at a meeting we organized on our street in Cambridge.  We had several incidents of muggings and break-ins, and a few of us (no doubt inspired by President Obama's history) decided to do a little community organizing.  We managed to get the attention of a city councilperson who is a neighbor, the police commander, and the city community development department.  Seventy people showed up at a meeting.  But when it came to who was willing to be on a steering committee to do the follow-up work, only a few hands went up.  That is to say, there's a lot of inertia in the world, and there are leaders who step up and change things.  But how long does it take for the Loop to set in?  (See Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men for a fictional account.)  One remains effective as a leader, I contend, and out of the Feedback Loop, if one remains a learner.  Being a leader and a learner is a paradox, however, because leaders have to be, in W's infamous coinage, "deciders."  Being a decider invites the Loop.

Personally, I'd toss all the governance standards in favor of the one infallible predictor of a leader being able to manage, within herself, the Learning/Leadership Paradox.  Unfortunately, I still don't know what the one infallible predictor is. The present punch line of my thinking on judgment is that managing the paradox requires some effort at the mental construction of possible worlds, but as seen from other points of view.  In short, empathetic conceptual blending...  Stay tuned.

February 8, 2009 in Law & Business | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)