Saturday, May 15, 2010

How not to practice law: if you make a mistake lie to cover it up

Here is a new addition to our "how not to practice law" series. This one illustrates a basic principle that I try to teach my students (and my kids for that matter): if you make a big mistake, don't lie to try to cover it up. Accept the fact you screwed up and make a plan to fix the problem or deal with the consequences.

In this case, an attorney did not file a lawsuit until after the applicable statute of limitations had expired. He then lied about why this happened and misrepresented the accident date in the complaint by a year to conceal the statute of limitations problem. Eventually, the case was dismissed which precluded any recovery for the client's substantial injuries. To make matters worse, the attorney did not have malpractice insurance so the client also did not have a realistic chance to recover anything from the attorney in a legal malpractice claim. Finally, when facing an investigation for the handling of the case, the attorney did not respond to Bar Counsel's written requests for information.

Although, at the time, the attorney was undergoing a nasty and unexpected firm dissolution in which he was locked out of his office, marital discord and health issues, the court found that these factors did not explain or mitigate the blown statute and ensuing acts of serious dishonesty.

The case is called Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland v. Bleeker and it is available here.

Thanks to the Legal Profession Blog for the information.

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