I was perusing the latest Virginia Lawyer's Digest over the weekend-- the Disciplinary Actions edition--when I ran across a familiar name: The attorney that I used to work for. Out of curiosity I went to the Virginia State Bar website and looked up the opinion. It was a compilation of 17 separate complaints. Seventeen. That's impressive, even for him!
As I read it, I must admit to a tinge of schadenfreude, but that was quickly replaced by a feeling of sadness. All of the actions in the complaint took place in the last 5 years or so, and I left his firm 14 years ago, but I could have written the complaint. Same stuff, different names. Some were clients who paid him a retainer and he simply didn't do the work. The most egregious of these was a woman who hired him in 2005 to do a no-fault divorce and separation agreement, a procedure that should have taken 6 months to finalize. At the time that the complaint was filed in 2008-- three years later-- the divorce was still not final.
Others were clients where he took the case even though he had no expertise in the subject matter. There was an adverse possession claim, for instance. Trust me, this is a man who knows NOTHING about real property law! There were also employment discrimination, worker's comp, and other assorted claims that I sincerely doubt he knew anything about.
Finally, there was the mishandling of the trust account. That's what he got sanctioned for when I left his firm. Obviously he still hasn't learned how to handle that account.
What is missing from the report, though, is the underlying problem: He is bipolar, and he refuses to take medication or treatment for his condition. I don't know if he is in denial about how serious his condition is or his ability to compensate for it or if he doesn't like the side effects of the medication or if he just enjoys the highs from the manic side of the equation and doesn't wish to give them up. One way or the other, though, he shouldn't be allowed to represent anyone until he can demonstrate that he has this under control or the same thing will happen again and again.
I feel sorry for him, but I feel even sorrier for his clients. I really hope he uses the 18 months of his suspension to get his act together.