Posts Tagged ‘misconduct’

Paralegal Student Blog: Attorneys Gone Wild

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

The Sinclair Community College paralegal program in Dayton, Ohio had an interesting project for the Fall 2010 Quarter. As part of the project student Amanda J. created a blog entitled, “Attorneys Gone Wild: Lawyer/Paralegal Misconduct.” The entries appear to end when the quarter ended, so I’ve not added the blog to the blogroll here, but it is interesting to see a paralegal students perspective on legal ethics and the misconduct of lawyers and paralegal. The next-to-last entry spins off a post from this blog regarding a Florida jury verdict in favor of a paralegal who sued her former employer. She comments:

A Florida jury found in favor of a paralegal who entered into a contract with her supervising attorney to receive a portion of the earnings from the attorney’s fees.

If you have been paying attention in Legal Ethics, this is fee-sharing or fee-splitting and is prohibited for non-lawyers. The paralegal goes to court, knowing she has committed unethical behavior, will be fired, and will be known in the community for her unscrupulous behavior, yet still pursues the case which ultimately results in her supervising attorney being disciplined.

I find it strange that two legal professionals can go to court, both having committed unethical behavior and only one is disciplined. Even though the lack of a paralegal ethical code protects me from court discipline, I would like to have the confidence that any non-lawyer with whom I work is under the same rules and guidelines as any lawyer with whom I work.

If Amanda J. is still reading this blog now that her project is done, she’s likely to be interested in the views of practicing paralegals on this, so feel free to comment.

Warning to my students: I like the concept of this type of project as an educational tool, so be prepared!

Paralegal Tells Tales Out of School

Monday, August 30th, 2010

According to

A former paralegal for a New York lawyer says his star client, heiress to a copper fortune, once gave his granddaughter a $10,000 dollhouse.

Cynthia Garcia told the New York Post that Huguette Clark was so generous to Wallace Bock her gifts became a joke at his law firm. She is also said to have donated $1.5 million to build a bomb shelter in the Israeli community where one of his daughters lives.

Staffers once created a phony will making him Clark’s major beneficiary and gave it to him at a holiday party.

Clark is now 104. She now lives at Beth Israel Medical Center and has not seen in her 42-room apartment in Manhattan or her houses in California and New Canaan, Conn., for decades.

The Manhattan District Attorney is investigating whether Bock and accountant Irving Kamsler have cheated the heiress.

Garcia told the Post that Bock recently telephoned her after several years without communication and asked her not to talk about his relationship with Clark.

“What they’re doing to her is horrible,” Garcia said.

Clark’s father, William Clark, was a onetime school teacher who made a fortune in copper. He represented Montana in the U.S. Senate for a single term and died in 1925.

Now if any of these allegations are true, I have absolutely no sympathy for the attorney and hope he is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law as well as disciplined by the proper bar authorities.  I do, however, have a problem with a paralegal, ex- or not, discussing this information with a newspaper.

I do not oppose, in fact I encourage, whistle-blowing for this type of activity. But whistle-blowing consists of reporting misfeasance or malfeasance to the proper authorities. Giving this kind of information to a newspaper is not just unprofessional vis-a-vis the attorney, but a violation of the  client’s right to confidentiality. Assuming the statements are true, can the paralegal truly believe that Bock or her family would want this story plastered in the Post? Even if she does truly believe it, she does not have the right to make that decision. That is what confidentiality is about.

The possibility that it may all come out as a result of an indictment or trial is of no weight. If that should happen, the disclosure will be the result of a court proceeding, not a unilateral decision on the part of a person who once took on the weighty role of a member of a legal team committed to the confidentiality of client information. The rules of ethics allows the former, not the latter. Whistle-blowing to the authorities at the risk of losing one’s job is an act of integrity. Telling tales to the press when there is no risk to you, is most definitely not an act of integrity or professionalism.