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Lawyers Helping Lawyers Avoid the Perils of Professional Discipline

Posts on Managing Law Firm Finances and Protecting Client Funds

The Ills of Medical Bills

Q. Wishing to handle it herself, my client has asked me not to pay one of her doctors from the proceeds of her settlement. I never signed anything to guarantee such payment, but I'm afraid that the doctor will claim a lien on the proceeds and come after me. What should I do?

Billing for Billing

Q. Whenever my client gets a bill, he calls to question each of my time entries, keeping me on the phone for 30-45 minutes each time. May I bill him for this time?

Avoiding Trust

Q. If my clients agree to it in writing, can I avoid the need for a trust account and put their money elsewhere?

"Engagement Fee" for Divorce?

Q. In divorce cases, my retainer provides that a $1,000 "engagement fee" is "non-refundable" and "earned upon receipt." This assures my client that I won't represent the other side. Must I put this fee in my trust account?

What's In Your Wallet?

Q. Unable to take payments in person these days, I may let clients use apps like Paypal and Venmo to pay fees and retainers online. Are such payments allowed?

Learning to Trust

Q. Since business has slowed, I finally have time to reconcile my trust account. But I haven't a clue on where to begin. Can you help me?

Endorsing at a Distance

Q. Hit by the wave of COVID-19 layoffs, my client is desperate for money and calls often to see if her settlement check arrived. It just came in today's mail, jointly payable to us both. Since I can't have her visit to endorse it herself, may I sign it for her?

Protecting Your Paycheck

Q. I'm applying for a loan through the federal Paycheck Protection Program. I can probably survive without it, but if I use the funds to pay my staff, the feds will forgive the loan entirely and subsidize my payroll. Are you doing it too?

Ten Commandments of Trust

Q. As the new managing partner of our firm, I have no idea how to manage our trust account. What must I do to comply with the rules?

Taxation of Representation

​​Q. Licensed in Maryland and the District of Columbia, I find it challenging to represent consumers and small businesses that can't afford the legal fees of my competitors. If Maryland puts a tax on legal services, how would that impact my clients and my practice?

Drama on Contingency

Q. After a rear-end crash and two years of treatment, the victim retained me on contingency. Within a week, I sent the liability carrier a strong settlement demand along with $175,000 in medical bills. After getting $300,000 in policy limits, my client says I didn't do "enough work" to earn a third of it. A deal's a deal, right?

Holding Files for Ransom

Q. After ten months of discovery in a complex civil case, my client fired me for "taking too long" and refused to pay her bill. Now, her new lawyer has asked me for the file. May I keep it until I get paid?

The Dreaded Overdraft

Q. I'm ashamed to admit that I don't know how to balance my own checkbook. Knowing that banks are reporting overdrafts to the grievance board, I'm terrified of bouncing a check on my trust account. May I keep some extra money in the account just to be safe?

A Loan to Bemoan

Q. Disabled after her accident, my client can't pay her mortgage, her medical bills, or even her utility bill. Desperate to survive, she wants to settle her case for a fraction of its value. May I advance her living expenses until after we resolve the case?​

Binding Clients to Arbitration

Q. After lengthy litigation, we recently collected a large outstanding bill from a client who filed a frivolous counterclaim against us for malpractice. To prevent this from happening again, may we require binding arbitration in future retainer agreements?

Fee Splitting

Q. I've always heard that referral fees are forbidden. But I know lawyers who routinely refer cases for a share of the profit, even if they're not licensed where the cases are pending. Isn't this unethical?

Deal Without Appeal

Q. I took a complicated contingency case to trial and lost. Now my client wants me to appeal the verdict for free. Must I?

Phishing for Lawyers

Q. Representing a Korean supplier of silicone for electronics, I demanded $90,000 from a U.S. company that failed to pay for these materials and immediately received a $90,000 cashier's check. My client wants me to wire its net recovery from my trust account to its Canadian bank. Any need to wait?

The Unsettled Client

Q. I settled a weak case for $30,000, and got my client's medical bills reduced to $15,000. But my client is angry that he's "netting a measly $5,000," won't let me pay his doctors, and objects to my one-third fee. What should I do?

Profiting from Retainers

​​Q. Unhappy with my client's engineering work, a huge contractor ignored my demand for payment of a $150,000 bill. It's a small sum to the contractor, but a lot of money for my client to lose. With more documents than cash on hand, my client wants to sue and fight "on principle." How should I engineer this?

Attorney Grievance defense attorney specializes in defending lawyers in disciplinary proceedings before the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission and the D.C. Bar's Board on Professional Responsibility involving professional misconduct, legal ethics, disbarment, suspensions of law licenses, petitions for disciplinary action, reprimands and sanctions for unethical conduct. If you receive a letter from Bar Counsel Lydia Lawless, Disciplinary Counsel Hamilton Fox, or from any attorney disciplinary board in Maryland or the District of Columbia, retain experienced attorneys with expertise in lawyer discipline and breach of ethics cases to avoid sanctions for professional misconduct. We help lawyers avoid disbarment, suspension, reprimands, censure and informal admonitions by drafting responses to client grievances and ethical complaints; representing lawyers in peer reviews, evidentiary hearings, and oral arguments before the BPR and the Court of Appeals; filing petitions to reinstate an attorney's license to practice law; conducting law firm ethical compliance audits; and drafting legal ethics opinions to protect lawyers from ethics charges. In many cases, disciplinary proceedings may be dismissed, dismissed with a warning, or result in a conditional diversion agreement with Bar Counsel to rectify misconduct. Lawyers may need help in managing their law firm attorney escrow IOLTA trust account and complying with attorney trust accounting rules to avoid charges of ethical misconduct. Do not represent yourself in responding to an attorney grievance, law firm client complaint, or other allegation of ethical impropriety. Attorney grievance defense counsel may help you comply with legal ethics rules, avoid sanctions like suspension or disbarment, and avoid future attorney grievances.

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By The Lawyer's Lawyers | Kramer & Connolly and Irwin R. Kramer who are responsible for the content of this informational website.   This website is designed for lawyers faced with attorney grievances. As cases do differ, past performance does not guarantee future results.
 

NOT AFFILIATED WITH THE ATTORNEY GRIEVANCE COMMISSION OF MARYLAND
OR THE BOARD ON PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY OF THE D.C. BAR