Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Should Lawyers Be Disciplined for Being Greedy?

Carolyn Elefant on the My Shingle blog has an interesting post (here) releated to a story about a lawyer disciplined for misleading other lawyers into joining her firm with promises of high salaries and luxury cars.  The lawyer, Cynthia Sutherin, was a former public defender who told the attorneys that she had $5.2 million to start the firm, and when her lies (including that she had cancer) were revealed, the duped attorneys filed a disciplinary complaint, for which Sutherin received a two-year suspension from the disciplinary panel (see article here discussing case).  Carolyn raises some interesting issues about the duped attorneys:

But here's my real beef.  If dishonesty, outside the context of an attorney-client relationship is grounds for disbarment, why isn't greed and incompetence?  After all, what were those lawyers who left their job thinking when a former public defender claimed to have $5.2 million to start a firm?  Did those lawyers think it was a wise business move to work for an attorney who offered to buy them them BMW's rather than reinvesting the money back in the firm?  Did the lawyers ask whether Sutherin had a business plan for further growth of the firm or office space or even a website?   Were they at all concerned that a former public defender who I'm assuming had no previous experience running a law firm would be capable of launching a practice that would succeed from the start? At best, the duped attorneys were guilty of simple incompetence in failing to protect their own interests and at worst, of allowing the lure of fancy cars and high salaries to obscure their good judgment.  Surely, we don't want that kind of attorney in practice any more than a dishonest one.  So why weren't those attorneys subject to discipline also?



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