Attorney Grievance Investigations
Greater Baltimore, Maryland | Washington, D.C., Region Attorney Misconduct Representation
Nathans & Biddle, LLP, has successfully defended lawyers in attorney grievance proceedings, Office of Professional Responsibility investigations, federal contempt proceedings, employment matters and/or matters related to state or federal criminal charges. These attorney clients have included a managing partner of a national law firm, a member of the executive committee of a top 100 law firm, a senior Department of Justice attorney, a former Assistant United States Attorney, a former state court prosecutor, a securities lawyer, an immigration attorney, a plaintiff's lawyer, a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, prominent Baltimore and Washington, D.C., criminal defense attorneys and a public defender.
A Significant History of Successful Case Results
While past successes do not predict future outcomes, Mr. Nathans and Mr. Ripke have either persuaded the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission to decline to bring attorney misconduct charges or have been successful in every peer review hearing handled by our firm. These matters included allegations of unauthorized practice of law, failure to file tax returns, Internet sex conversations with juveniles, Internet harassment, disclosing client secrets and misleading a judge, failure to properly and diligently represent clients, excessive fees and disclosing information learned as a government attorney after having left government services. In one instance, the Attorney Grievance Commission declined to sanction the attorney, even though the attorney had sustained a criminal conviction for the underlying conduct.
Sound Advice From Seasoned Counsel
Examples of other successes in prior years include successful representation of an attorney who, after investigation proceedings, was facing 27 attorney misconduct charges and disbarment by the Attorney Grievance Commission culminating in a finding of only one minor violation after a peer review hearing.
Attorney Grievance Updates - Attorney Record-Keeping
We regularly represent lawyers who receive inquiries and docketed complaints against them from the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission. In fiscal year 2011, the Commission docketed 429 complaints against attorneys, and they sent out letters of inquiry to attorneys that amounted to many times more than those docketed complaints. Every day lawyers in Maryland are being asked to respond, or are practicing under a duty to respond, to inquiries involving their license.
The way a lawyer responds to a letter from the Attorney Grievance Commission is instrumental to the ultimate resolution of the problem. A response can also create more problems than initially appear on the face of an inquiry. A primary example of this is in the area of record-keeping. Innocent record-keeping problems can crop up in any part of a practice. One example is in financial records, and records of an attorney's trust account. Maryland's Bar Counsel wrote about these issues previously in the Maryland Bar Journal, and his insights are quite valuable.
The truth is many lawyers know in the back of their minds that their record-keeping is not up to where it should be long before a letter arrives from the Attorney Grievance Commission. If you are not entirely comfortable with the state of your record-keeping - financial or otherwise - seek the advice and support of counsel now, before an issue arises.
One area many good lawyers can always get better at is learning more about the ins and outs of attorney trust accounts. See, e.g., Md. Rules 16-606.1 & 16-607b. For example, Maryland Rule 16-607b mandates monthly reconciliation of trust account records, client matter records, funds held in the account and an adjusted month-end financial institution statement balance. If these procedures are not timely followed, even an innocent accounting error can snowball and become hard to uncover. As the Attorney Grievance Commission explains:
The absence of timely reconciliation permits mistakes to be buried, to be dug up at great expense, often accompanied by embarrassment, loss of client confidence and with the risk of sanctions.
Things can worsen quickly in the event of an overdraft. Whenever an attorney's trust account experiences an overdraft, the overdraft is supposed to be reported by the financial institution to the Attorney Grievance Commission. If this happens to you, you will be directed to provide an explanation and records in support. If you receive such an inquiry it should be treated very seriously and addressed immediately. Both banks and attorneys innocently make relatively minor accounting errors all the time. When these inadvertent mistakes happen, they can be explained and resolved promptly with a well-written and properly documented response. But in the process of doing so, an attorney may need to share ledgers and other manners of record-keeping that may not have always been properly maintained and updated. When the Attorney Grievance Commission determines some records have not always been properly maintained and updated, it could lead to an investigation about a lawyer's other required records, even if the original disputed transaction is resolved.
If you could benefit from assistance in making certain you are compliant with professional obligations, including updating or reconciling your record-keeping, contact an attorney at Nathans & Biddle, LLP, today.
To learn more about the legal services of Nathans & Biddle, LLP, please contact our office in Baltimore to schedule an appointment.