If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that I oftentimes like to talk about the law in different contexts. Recently I thought “gee, there are a lot of people out there who are unhappy with their (former) lawyer.” I wondered to myself what people were thinking, what their negative experiences may have been and how that has impacted their view on lawyers.
So I put out an all-points-bulletin asking for peoples’ stories and, so far, have gotten several interesting responses. I’m reprinting some of those stories in a series of blog posts, this being the first. My goal is not to “out” any particular lawyer or alleged victim. I will not identify any of the persons involved (lawyers, clients, etc.) by printing their real names. I’m also going to mask locations when it seems that the location will give away the identity of those involved.
The stories are not verified by me but, regardless, they are interesting by their very nature. At the end of each story, I will post some relevant links and possibly offer a legal opinion based on California law.
Feel free to respond with a story of your own and/or comments relevant to this series of stories.
Lawyer Hits On Divorce Client with Aspberger's
Belinda R. writes:
When I was getting my divorce, I had what I feel was a bad lawyer. I was 28 or so with three small children. I have Asperger’s but at the time was not diagnosed. However, it does make you naive (my husband says innocent like a child). I was escaping an abusive relationship and my ex was stalking me.
I also didn’t have much money. I found an attorney through a friend of a friend. He had a good reputation for being aggressive, and as far as the attorney part went, he was good. Then he started making comments to me. I did not understand many of them until I mentioned something to a friend and she told me that he was being suggestive and "making passes" at me. He invited me to a pool party at his house but I did not go (my friend advised me against it – she was sort of my protector, she knew how innocent I was). He took me out to dinner once and said that he wanted to talk about my case, but he kept ordering alcohol. I did not drink much then (and not at all now) but he kept trying to make me drink more and more. That did not seem right but I am not the best judge for what is right or normal in social interactions.
He made some statements that if I went out with him he could make my costs less. I did not really understand at the time, but my friend explained it. It seemed like he wanted to trade dates and maybe more for his legal services. I don’t really know, I never asked him to clarify but I never went out with him. Then one day he called me at work to tell me that he had "a hard-on and nowhere to put it." I told my friend and she got really angry. I asked her if I should get another lawyer and she said, "Uh, yeah. You need to get another lawyer and report that SOB." (State Bar of California Complaint Form) I did not report him but I did get another lawyer. I have not been comfortable with lawyers since – and that was 14 years ago.
Analysis: Did This Lawyer Do Anything Wrong?
Hello?!? I cannot make light of this situation. Every California lawyer takes a sworn oath to act within the California Rules of Professional Conduct (i.e. ethics) and, if true, this lady's lawyer violated some very basic rules. (Another excellent source is the American Bar Association Rules of Professional Conduct)
The State Bar of California addresses this issue: California Rule 3-120, Sexual Relations with Client.
The American Bar Association likewise addresses this issue. It is fleshed out very well in a State of Virginia Legal Ethics Opinion entitled Sexual Relationship With A Client.
Sexual relationships between lawyer and client is a recurring problem and is the basis for lawyer discipline throughout the United States. For continued reading on lawyer misconduct and the discipline that follows, I'd like to suggest that you read the Legal Professions Blog which discusses these issues and current disciplinary cases on a daily basis.
Do You Have A Lawyer Horror Story?
Do you have a lawyer horror story? It can be a story about the mishandling of a loan modification, abusive attorneys (yours or the other party's), incompetence, disappointing results or? Submit your story to me via e-mail at email@example.com
Oh, One Last Thing: Can You Fire Your Lawyer?
Can you fire your lawyer? The simple answer to this question is "yes." Read on here: Firing Your Lawyer and Hiring A New One