Rhode Island Lawyer required to perform pro bono services for blaming billing mistake on “staff error” even though he had no staff

Hello everyone and welcome to this JACPA Ethics Alert which will discuss the recent disciplinary Order/Opinion of the Rhode Island Supreme Court opinion requiring a Rhode Island lawyer to perform 20 hours of pro bono legal work in family court guardianship matters to resolve a disciplinary  case.  The case citation is: In the Matter of Milan Azar, Rhode Island Supreme Court Case No. 2011-359-M.P. (November 10, 2011).

According to the opinion, the case began with a billing dispute related to the lawyer’s representation in several family court guardianship cases for children in the same family.  After a disciplinary complaint was filed, the lawyer blamed the billing problems on “staff error”; however, further investigation by the disciplinary agency showed that he had no staff.

The opinion also states that the lawyer admitted that he made the false statements because he was embarrassed.  In mitigation, the opinion noted that “Respondent has no prior discipline, that he appears to be fully remorseful for his conduct, and that he has taken full responsibility for his conduct.  There are no aggravating factors present in this case.”  If the lawyer completes the 20 hours of pro bono services, the case will be dismissed without further order of the court.

Bottom line:  Lawyers should always tell the truth and shouldn’t blame mistakes on staff if there aren’t any (and don’t expect the result in this case if they do).  Perhaps we may have learned this in kindergarten?

…be careful out there!

As always, if you have any questions about this Ethics Alert or need assistance, analysis, and guidance regarding these or any other ethics, risk management, or other issues, please do not hesitate to contact me.

THE LAW OFFICE OF JOSEPH A. CORSMEIER, P.A.

PROVIDES ETHICS ADVICE AND EXPERT OPINIONS TO LAWYERS AND LAW FIRMS

DEFENDS LAWYERS IN BAR ADMISSION AND DISCIPLINE CASES

(AND MUCH MORE!)

My law firm focuses on review, analysis, and interpretation of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, advice and representation of lawyers in Bar disciplinary matters, defense of applicants for admission to The Florida Bar before the Board of Bar Examiners, defense of all Florida licensed professionals in discipline and admission matters before all state agencies and boards, expert ethics opinions, and practice management for lawyers and law firms.  If there is a lawyer or other Florida professional license involved, I can defend the complaint or help you get your license.

If you have any questions or comments, please call me at (727) 799-1688 or e-mail me at jcorsmeier@jac-law.com.  You can find my law firm on the web at www.jac-law.com. In addition to handling individual cases, matters, problems and issues for my clients, I also am on retainer to provide ethics advice to numerous lawyers and law firms throughout the state of Florida.  I also provide legal assistance and advice to numerous individuals and non-legal entities to help insure compliance with the law and rules related to UPL and other issues.

istakes on staff if there aren’t any (and don’t expect the result in this case if they do).  Perhaps we may have learned this in kindergarten?

…be careful out there!

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Filed under Florida Lawyer Ethics and Professionalism, Lawyer Ethics and Professionalism

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