An attorney’s private life involves all of the day to day stuff that everyone else has to deal with. This includes buying and selling houses and cars, running other businesses, getting into disputes, car accidents, and having loved ones in the hospital. Attorneys sometimes try to help their “cause” at times by reminding the other party they are dealing with an attorney that may work for a large powerful law firm.
Whether it is done verbally or in writing, trying to get an “edge” may expose the attorney and their firm to claims of malpractice or violating rules of professional conduct.
A number of years ago, an attorney we were working with to obtain malpractice insurance coverage had a grievance filed against the attorney for actions totally unrelated to the practice of law. The attorney’s mother was in the hospital, and the attorney was not satisfied with the level of care that was being given to his mother. This can be a very stressful situation. In the heat of the moment, the attorney threatened to sue one of the nurses that was providing care for this mother unless the nurse changed the level of care. The attorney reminded her that as an attorney he could easily follow through with the threat and make the nurse’s life miserable.
No suit was ever filed against the nurse. But the nurse did file a grievance against the attorney with the state grievance board. The attorney ended up getting malpractice coverage, but it was not at a preferred premium that it could have been had there been no grievance.
In another case an attorney was personally involved in a business deal that the other party backed out on. The attorney then proceeded to start sending letters demanding payments using the law firm’s letterhead. The attorney asserted in the letters that he would have the firm’s attorneys file suit against the other party if they did not pay.
The other party claimed that not only the attorney but the attorney’s law firm had violated Federal Fair Debt Act as a debt collector.
When an attorney’s private life intertwines with the attorney’s life as an attorney, caution should be exhibited to make sure that the crossing of these two worlds does not bring unintended consequences.
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Lee Norcross, MBA, CPCU
Managing Director, CEO
(616) 940-1101 Ext. 7080