Wednesday, April 19, 2017
The South Carolina Supreme Court has publicly reprimanded an attorney for, among other things, inaccurate statements on her web page and on Facebook.
Respondent is licensed to practice law in South Carolina, New York, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. Prior to her admission in South Carolina in 2013, respondent was employed by three firms in other states, primarily conducting real estate closings. Since 2013, respondent has operated a solo practice, Emery Law, from an office in Myrtle Beach. Respondent also maintained office space for Emery Law in New York, but she performed little work there. Emery Law had no non-lawyer employees, but was, instead, staffed by contract paralegals employed by Precision Paralegal, a non-lawyer-owned company. Emery Law also used the support services of First Legal Net, a non-lawyer-owned company contracted through Precision Paralegals. During the times relevant to this Agreement, respondent had no partners or associates at Emery Law. Her practice in South Carolina has consisted of residential and commercial real estate closings and mortgage loan modification matters.
Web page issues
During the time relevant to these complaints, respondent operated a website for Emery Law. Respondent admits that she retained a website professional to prepare the content of her website without discussing the Rules of Professional Conduct with him or reviewing the website before it was disseminated. The website professional developed the website content by cutting and pasting from other law firm websites which resulted in a number of inaccurate representations and improper statements.
And on Facebook
Respondent maintained a law firm profile on www.facebook.com. Both respondent and a paralegal employed through Precision Paralegal created content for the Facebook page. Respondent did not adequately monitor the posts made by the contract paralegal. Respondent acknowledges the following errors on her Facebook page:
- the paralegal created Facebook posts congratulating respondent's clients after each real estate closing. Respondent did not have her clients' permission to post their names and other information about their legal matters on Facebook.
- the paralegal included unsubstantiated comparative descriptions of respondent and her legal services such as "best;" and
- the paralegal advertised special discounted rates for respondent's legal fees without disclosing whether or not those rates included anticipated costs.
The attorney admitted the above violations as well as misconduct in an array of client matters generated as a result.
In addition to the reprimand
respondent shall: 1) pay the costs incurred in the investigation and prosecution of this matter by ODC and the Commission no later than thirty (30) days from the date of this opinion and 2) provide proof of completion of the Legal Ethics and Practice Program Trust Account School to the Commission no later than one (1) year from the date of this opinion. Further, within ninety (90) days of the date of this opinion, respondent shall refund $2,995.00 to Client B, $2,995.00 to Client C, and $3,000 to Client E.