Are Attorneys Above The Law

If you have ever been in the regrettable situation where you need the assistance of a good attorney, then you know how much of a blessing they can be. It is possible that your marriage is falling to pieces, and you have children that your visitation rights you need resolved; or maybe you have been injured in an accident, and need to make assistance making a claim against the party that is at fault. No matter what your need, the right attorney can help make the entire procedure much easier.

Nevertheless, regardless of all the good work many attorneys do, there are a large number of attorneys who operate on the other side of the fence. These are the ones who will rip their clients off, ignore and break the law themselves in order to enrich their own lives.

These same attorneys will use suspicious moral practices to get questionable results, all of which directly affects you.
“Quis Custodes Ipsos Custodiet”, by the poet Juvenal, which means “Who Shall Watch The Watchers Themselves”, is an old Latin saying that sums up this situation perfectly – It is extremely apt in these situations, for if we cannot trust our protectors to actually protect us, what can we do? Who punishes the attorneys when they break the law?

Terrifying Statistics

Even though you may believe that attorneys who break the law are in the minority, the number of incidents that have been brought to the public’s notice is on the rise. Some of the most recent examples of this are:

o In 2001, a total of ELEVEN attorneys in Tennessee were still practicing law, even though there was a list of charges against them which included bank fraud, perjury, and even one attorney who was to blame for his failure to deliver evidence, which caused an innocent man to be kept in prison for four years on a rape charge.

o This year in Warren, Ohio an attorney was charged with fraud, including deceiving an elderly woman out of over $80,000

o Also this year, two attorneys in Boise, Idaho, were convicted of shocking financial dealings relating to real estate purchases at University Place

Yet, in spite of these findings, and the guilty parties acknowledging their criminal behavior, they are still permitted to work and practice law. Why is this, and what can you do about it if it affects you?

The Censure Debacle

While a child is growing up, and if they do something wrong, we as parents would punish them – this is how we have all learned right from wrong. The same in goes in our adult life – we all know that if we break the law, we will get punished. Depending on what it is we have done wrong or accused of, the punishment can vary – from an official warning for something minor, to losing your driving license for a road traffic offense, to spending time in jail embezzlement or something even more serious. There are even times when someone has spent time incarcerated when actually innocent.

However, the same set of laws do not seem to apply to attorneys. When they do something unlawful, as a rule, it does not look as if it affects their job too much, because they are still permitted to practice law. Still yet, if they are punished in a more serious manner, you can bet your bottom dollar it will not be anywhere near as severe as how we would be dealt with for the same crime.

The rationale for this is something attorneys love to fall back on, and that something is censure, a convenient scheme of publicly scolding someone without really doing anything official. Sure, when you hear that an attorney has been “publicly censured”, it might look and sound good on paper, but in fact it is anything but. The only thing that happens is that a public official, or if someone of prominence does receive a warning, it is like being a slapped on the wrist, and told not to be naughty again. Not exactly inductive to making someone alter his or her ways. However, it is not just this that is at fault here.

The Old School Tie Network

When any kind of law is broken, if it goes to court then it is normally attorneys who will work to see that the correct type of penalty is laid down out by the judges. However, if it is an attorney who is on trial (although this in itself can be hard to achieve, thanks to the censure procedure), then you can just about ensure that an old friend or colleague from law school will take their case.

As if that is not bad enough, you will find that the attorney is probably a friend of the judge that is hearing the case, which does not provoke confidence that the case is going to be heard fairly or with impunity. It is this kind of “all for one, one for all” attitude that has seen public faith in attorneys lapse to an unprecedented low, which is a particular embarrassment for the good attorneys that do their job well and look out for the people that matter – their clients.

If you have been a victim of malpractice by an attorney, there are ways that you can bring them to justice, and not just leave them to go the normal route of censure and favors from friends getting them off the hook.

Taking The Law Into Your Hands

One avenue that you can take to see the offending attorney brought to justice is by way of the state governing boards that are supposed to be responsible for attorneys being able to operate in a particular state or county. Unfortunately, this can be a tremendously costly and is usually a very long-drawn out process, which is not always successful, because the attorney can appeal it and generally the accuser is unaware and unable to speak out against them again. While the appeal is going on, they are allowed to continue to practice law…ergo the attorney gets away with it.

Another way you might consider is to use another attorney, which may sound bizarre as you are bringing a case against another attorney. However, just like any job and vocation, there are some exceptional attorneys who would like nothing better than to successfully charge and prosecute someone who is blighting their business and good name in such a negative manner.

If you are unsure of where you should start, there is usually a lawyer referral service in your town or you can go online and do a search with Google, Yahoo or MSN where you will find lists of firms in your city that would be more than willing to take this type of case on.

Another option is to go to the local and national press. People hate to think of those intended to protect our rights as operating in an criminal manner, and they like it even less when it is an attorney who is using the law to further enrich their own way of life. For that reason, you should take all your facts and dates to the press, who would love to chase these lawbreaking attorneys down for you.

No matter what you decide to do, please do not just sit and hope that the attorney will be found out without your help – that is why there are so many bad ones on the loose in the first place.

Find an Attorney Using These Three Tips

If you need to find an attorney, then you need to read this article first in order to avoid making a costly mistake. You need to learn where to get an attorney referral as well as attorney advertising to avoid. 

A competent attorney is going to provide a certain level of client service and will discuss payment arrangements in advance. Before you visit that attorney you saw on television or in the phone book, you should take a minute to arm yourself with information that could potentially save your thousands of dollars.

Find An Attorney With A Referral From A Friend

Most clients do not know where to begin to look for an attorney. So, they contact the attorney with the most outrageous television commercials or the biggest yellow ad. This is often a mistake. 

Instead, you should get a referral from a friend that has used an attorney for the type of legal issues that you face. You can also contact your family accountant, banker or even pastor to find an attorney you can trust. In every case, follow up on your referral by checking the attorney out on the internet. There are a number of lawyer rating services available online. But it doe not stop there. You also need to review the attorney’s commitment to client service.

Evaluate Your Attorney’s Commitment To Service

Most clients become dissatisfied with their attorney because the attorney fails to treat them with the respect that a paying client deserves. Specifically, the single biggest complaint is that the attorney fails to keep his client abreast of the status of the case. A competent and professional attorney will return phone calls and provide regular status reports in writing to his client. 

In addition, a good attorney will be able to gather evidence, reports, medical records and witness statements in a timely and efficient manner. Once you understand what to expect in terms of client service, you can begin to think about how you are going to compensate your attorney for services rendered.

Discuss Attorney’s Fees Early On

The most important question that clients have when they try to find a lawyer is how they are going to pay for his services. This issue should be discussed very early in the attorney selection process. Depending on the type of case, the lawyer can charge a flat fee for simple matters, an hourly rate for other services. 

Personal injury clients will likely be offered a contingency fee (or modified contingency fee) arrangement whereby no money will be required up front. Regardless of the type of fee arrangement, the fee contract should be in writing and signed by both parties. 

Conduct Your Attorney Search With Confidence

Now that you know more about how to find an attorney, you can do so with confidence. Find a lawyer by way of referrals from trusted friends or professionals, not television or telephone advertisements. Demand that you attorney give you superior service and respect. Lastly, discuss your attorney fees early and get the agreement in writing. So, keep these key points in mind when you go out there and find an attorney that will serve you well.

Associate Attorney Employment Agreement

Most law firms that are made up of more than one person are set up as a hierarchy with Partners at the top and varying levels of Associate Attorneys below them. Partners are generally the owners of the business and Associates are employees. The Associates are often given the opportunity to work their way up the ladder to become Partners and share in the profits of the firm instead of just receiving wages.

It is important to have a written agreement or contract between the Associates and the Firm that spells out everyone’s duties and obligations as well as the conditions under which they may advance. The following is a draft contract between an Associate and a law firm that can be customized to meet the needs of a law firm hiring an Associate Attorney.

This AGREEMENT made of this 21st day of March, 2011, between the Law Offices of at Smith, herein referred to as the “Firm” and Joe Blow, hereinafter referred to as the “Attorney.”

Recitals

The Firm is a Sole Proprietorship, operating as a business rendering legal services. If, during the term of this contract, the Firm changes to another form of business organization, this contract will continue to be binding on both the Firm, under it’s new formation, and on the Attorney.

The Attorney is licensed to practice law in the State of Texas.

The Firm and the Attorney desire to have the attorney practice law as an employee of the Firm.

It is agreed by and between the parties as follows:

Section 1. Employment and Duties.

Employment. The Firm employs the Attorney and the Attorney accepts employment as an attorney in accordance with the terms of this Agreement.

Full Time. The Attorney shall devote full working time and attention on the practice of the law for the Firm and the Attorney shall not, without the written consent of the Firm, directly or indirectly rendered services of a professional nature to or for any person or firm except as an employee of the Firm.

Duties and Assignments. The Firm shall determine the duties to be performed by the Attorney and the means and the manner by which those duties shall be performed. The Firm shall determine the assignment of the clients to the Attorney and the Attorney shall perform services for such clients assigned. The Firm determine the rates at which the Attorney’s work shall be billed.

Section 2. Compensation

Salary. For all services rendered by the Attorney under this Agreement, the Firm shall pay the Attorney and annual salary of $58,000, payable weekly or as may otherwise be mutually agreed. The salary may be changed by mutual agreement of the parties at any time.

Bonus. In the addition to the salary specified in 2.1., the Attorney may receive a bonus. The bonus, if any, will be in such amounts as the Firm may determine in its absolute discretion.

Additional Compensation. In addition to the salary and bonus specified in items 2.1 and 2.2, the Attorney will be eligible to receive a percentage of the Firm’s portion of Personal Injury cases. The Attorney will receive 10% of the Firm’s payment from a Personal Injury case, when the Attorney has performed as the primary attorney on that case. Additionally, the Attorney will receive 10% of the Firm’s payment from a Personal Injury case, when the Attorney personally brought the case to the Firm.

Section 3. Partnership. It is the policy of the Firm to employ as attorneys persons who will be given the opportunity to become partners in the Firm. The Firm after a certain number of years will make the determination as to whether the Attorney will be admitted to partnership. The Firm expects to make this determination with respect to this Attorney, no earlier than July 1, 2005, and no later than July 1, 2007.

Section 4. Facilities.

Office. The Firm shall furnish the Attorney with office space, staff assistance, and such other facilities and services as are reasonably necessary to the performance of the Attorney’s duties.

Liability Insurance. The Firm shall maintain professional liability insurance covering the acts and omissions of the Attorney in performance of the Attorney’s professional duties.

Travel. The Attorney may be required to travel on business for the Firm, and shall be reimbursed for all reasonable and necessary expenses incurred, provided, however, that a detailed account of such expense is provided to the Firm.

Professional Societies. The Firm shall pay the Attorney’s dues for memberships in The State Bar of Texas and the American Bar Association.

Education. The Firm shall pay the reasonable amount of expenses incurred by the Attorney to maintain or improve the Attorney’s professional skills. The Attorney agrees to submit to the Firm such documentation as may be necessary to substantiate such expenses

Section 5. Additional Benefits.

Medical Insurance. The Firm agrees to provide medical coverage for the Attorney, the Attorney’s spouse and dependents under a group accident and health insurance policy, the terms and benefits of which shall be determined by the Firm. The Attorney is currently covered under her spouse’s policy and does not require such coverage currently. That Attorney will notify the Firm at such time that she needs this benefit.

Vacation. The Attorney shall be entitled to three weeks vacation time each year however, the Attorney’s vacation will be scheduled at such time as will least interfere with the business of the Firm. The Attorney is further entitled to time off on all holidays normally celebrated in accordance with the Firms stated policy.

Life Insurance. The Firm may provide group life insurance coverage, in amounts which shall be determined by the Firm.

Retirement Plan. The Attorney shall participate in any Firm qualified retirement plan according to the terms of said plan as amended from time to time.

Disability. In the event the Attorney is unable to perform his or her regular duties as a result of personal disability the Firm will pay the Attorney’s salary during such disability for a total of ninety (90) days in any 24 month period.

Section 6. Operations.

Records and Files. All records, documents, and files concerning clients of the Firm shall belong to and remain the property of the Firm. On termination of employment, the Attorney shall not be entitled to keep or reproduce the Firms’ records, documents or files relation to any client unless the client shall specifically request that its files be transmitted to the Attorney.

Fees. All fees and compensation received or realized as a result of the rendition of professional legal services by the Attorney shall belong to and be paid to the Firm. Any fee or honoraria received by the Attorney for professional services or other professional activities performed by the Attorney shall belong to the Firm.

Section 7. Term.

One Year, Automatic Extension. The term of this Agreement shall begin on the date hereof and continue for a period of one year and shall be automatically extended from year to year unless terminated in accordance with this section.

Events of Termination. This Agreement shall be terminated upon the happening of any of the following events:

The death of the Attorney.

The determination of the Firm that the Attorney has become disabled.

Dismissal for cause of the Attorney as hereinafter provided.

Occurrence of the effective date of termination, notice of which has been given in by either party to the other, so long as there are at least sixty (60) days between giving of the notice and the effective date of termination.

The mutual written agreement of the Attorney and the Firm to termination.

Termination on Disability. The Firm may determine that the Attorney has become disabled for purposes of the Agreement in the event that the Attorney shall fail, because of illness or incapacity, to render for ninety (90) days or more in any two-year period, services of the character contemplated by the Agreement, and thereunder shall be deemed to have been terminated as of the end of the calendar month in which such determination was made.

Causes for Dismissal. The Firm may dismiss the Attorney for cause in the event it determines there has been continued neglect by the Attorney if his or her duties, or willful misconduct on the part of the Attorney, including buy not limited to a finding of probable cause by the Bar for investigation a complaint filed with its discipline system or the filing of criminal charges against the Attorney, which would make retention of the Attorney by the Firm prejudicial to the Firm’s best interest.

Section 8. Miscellaneous.

Notices. All notices under this Agreement shall be mailed to the parties hereto at the following respective addresses:

Attorney:____________

Firm: ____________

A change in the mailing address of any party may be effected by serving written notice of such change and of such new address upon the other party.

Invalidity. The invalidity or unenforcibility of any provision or provisions of this Agreement shall not affect the other provisions, and this Agreement shall be construed in all respects as id any invalid or unenforceable provisions were omitted.

Arbitration. All disputes, differences and controversies arising out of, under, or in connection with this Agreement shall be settled and finally determined by Arbitration under the then existing Rules of the American Arbitration Association.

The parties have executed this Agreement as of the date and year first above written.

By:____________________________________________________