Wednesday, November 15, 2017
A public reprimand from the South Carolina Supreme Court
To market his legal services, Respondent sent direct mail solicitation letters to potential clients who received traffic tickets. A recipient of one of the letters filed a complaint with the Commission on Lawyer Conduct. In response to the complaint in this matter, Respondent acknowledged the following violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct in his solicitation letters:
1. Respondent used the tagline "attorneys at law" on his law firm letterhead. The tagline was misleading because Respondent is a solo practitioner.
2. Respondent claimed that he has "28 years experience both as a lawyer and former law enforcement officer" in his solicitation materials. Respondent acknowledges the claim was misleading because he has only been a lawyer and former law enforcement officer for sixteen years. Respondent's intention was to relay that he has twenty-eight years total experience as a law enforcement officer and as a lawyer combined.
3. Respondent used the telephone number (844) FIXTICKET. Use of the phoneword is the equivalent of a nickname, trade name, or moniker and is likely to create unjustified expectations or an implication that he can achieve results by unethical means. Furthermore, the phoneword is a moniker that implies an ability to obtain a certain result.
4. Respondent stated in his solicitation letters that he learned about the recipient's traffic ticket from "court records." Respondent's identification of the source of his information was not sufficiently specific.
Respondent's solicitation letter specifically referred the recipient to the website of Respondent's law firm. On his website, he claimed he has "unique insight into the South Carolina traffic laws that many other lawyers simply do not have." Respondent admits this claim cannot be factually substantiated.
On Line Profile
The solicitation letter specifically referred the recipient to Respondent's profile on www.avvo.com ("AVVO"), a legal marketing website. AVVO creates profiles for attorneys without their consent, knowledge, or participation, then invites them to "claim" their profiles and participate in a variety of AVVO marketing activities, including "ratings," peer endorsements, client testimonials, and online contact with prospective clients. Respondent claimed his AVVO profile and used the website to market his legal services.
The attorney had been confidentially admonished in 2013 for a response to a negative client review, in part
This is just an ungrateful former client who now wants to "blame his lawyer" because of what "he" did. This is typical of a very young person who has a lot of growing up to do. To my former client: Do me a favor. The next time you are arrested, call a public defender and see what happens and after you sit in jail for 3 months they might get around to sending you a form letter. Good luck.
In reviewing Respondent's AVVO profile in connection with the investigation of the current complaint, ODC discovered Respondent had not removed the offending post after receiving the admonition. Respondent never removed the offending post after receiving the admonition, which he admits he should have done.