Saturday, March 20, 2021

Guilt Through Association

An attorney's association with an out-of-state entity drew a two-year suspension from the New York Appellate Division for the Fourth Judicial Department

respondent conditionally admits that, in or about January 2017, he agreed to serve as local counsel to an out-of-state based entity, National Legal Professional Associates (NLPA), to represent a defendant who had been convicted in state court and sentenced to a term of incarceration of 25 years. Respondent admits that he thereafter failed to respond to several inquiries from the client, failed to take action on behalf of the client for extended periods of time, disclosed to NLPA confidential information of the client without discussing the disclosure with the client, and allowed the client to discuss the matter directly with representatives of NLPA without any oversight or involvement of respondent. Respondent also admits that he permitted NLPA to negotiate his legal fee in the matter and that he received payment of a portion of his legal fee from NLPA.

The misconduct included improper fee-sharing and facilitating unauthorized practice.

Sanction

We have also considered that, in 2010, respondent became aware that the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York (District Court) had issued a memorandum decision and order finding that NLPA and its associates engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in relation to a criminal matter involving two defendants. District Court cited several concerns that, in our view, are relevant to the circumstances underlying the charges in this matter. District Court cited NLPA’s potential interference with the lawyer-client relationship, evasion of supervision by the bar associations and courts, and avoidance of the strictures imposed by the New York Rules of Professional Conduct, including those regarding supervision of fee arrangements, protection against conflicts of interest, and safeguards pertaining to a client’s confidential information and privileged communications (see In re National Legal Professional Assoc., 2010 WL 624045, *21-23 [ND NY, Feb. 18, 2010, No. 1:08-MC-101 (NAM/DRH)]). In this case, there is no indication in the record that respondent took adequate measures to protect his clients from harm or prejudice related to those concerns.

The attorney had consented to the sanction. (Mike Frisch)

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2021/03/an-attorneys-association-with-an-entity-drew-a-two-year-suspension-from-the-new-york-appellate-division-for-the-fourth-judici.html

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