Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Rehab Plan: Play More Golf

The New Jersey Supreme Court reprimanded an attorney who violated the conditions of an agreement in lieu of discipline.

The Disciplinary Review Board made findings concerning the matter

In May 2013, respondent entered into an agreement in lieu of discipline (ALD). Because he failed to comply with its requirements, the DEC filed an ethics complaint against him.

On June 17, 2015, prior to the ethics hearing, the DEC issued a case management order, which provided that, if respondent sought to challenge the admissibility of the ALD and/or the admissions contained therein, he was required to file a brief on or before July 10, 2015, failing which he would be deemed to have waived any objection to its admission into evidence and any admissions contained therein. Respondent neither filed a brief nor objected to the admission of the ALD at the DEC hearing, but stated that he was there to put on a case and "to win friends and influence people."

The complaint involved alleged mishandling of a matrimonial case

At the DEC hearing, respondent thanked the panel for the opportunity to be present and "you know, just win friends and influence people. One day I’ll be on top of that panel." He later reiterated that if the ethics matter "goes nowhere, in about ten years, I will be on a panel similar to this."

Respondent asserted that, regardless of the panel’s ultimate decision, he had already changed his business practice. He was a "different attorney" from the one he was before. He was thought of "more of a business-minded attorney," and his clients were "much happier." He has changed his business practices, "which teaches me to think more like a business professional and have a successful family life . . . I’ve rehabbed myself."

Respondent regretted not following through with the conditions, presumably of the ALD. He claimed that he had written a letter of apology to the judge, but never submitted it because he wanted to deliver it in person...

As to the changes to his law practice, respondent remarked that new attorneys do not have funds for hiring staff. Thus, he starting reading books, one of which changed his life, Four Hour Work Week, which deals with outsourcing work. According to respondent, none of his paralegals are even in the State of New Jersey. "They’re spread out through the United States and I’m even exploring paralegals in India who can do legal work for me for pennies on the dollar." Respondent named several websites that could be used to post ads to hire paralegals for project based jobs to avoid paying someone a salary or benefits to sit in the office. He stated that the concept "works great" for him.

Respondent maintained that he tried to hire the best and smartest paralegals "who are ten times smarter than me who never got a chance to go to law school for whatever reason," and employs a paralegal who is licensed in another state but does not have a New Jersey license. According to respondent, she is 100 times smarter than him. He reviews her work and focuses "on going to conferences, building relationships and playing golf, because that brings in the business and I can have my paralegals do the work while I supervise them." His paralegals, however, do not dispense legal advice. This is like senior partner thinking because "they’re out playing golf and building relationship[s], which ultimately brings in the business."

The DRB found the charged violations and reprimanded the attorney

we have some reservations regarding respondent’s cognizance of his duties and obligations as an attorney. Thus, we further determine to impose the following conditions on respondent’s practice: (i) that respondent practice under the supervision of an OAE-approved proctor, until the OAE deems it is no longer necessary; (2) that he complete a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) course in law office management; and (3) that he complete two additional ethics courses, in addition to those required for CLE credit. Respondent is to provide proof to the OAE of completion of the courses within one year from the date of the Court’s Order.

(Mike Frisch)


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