Attorney in Washington state had a continued history of double dealing with her firm. After being fired for the practice she mislead her new employer and continued the same arrangement with individual clients outside of her firm.
For that and many other sins she was disbarred. (See the Court Opinion)
For the rest of the story, read on:
Washington Attorney Carllene M Placide was a non-equity partner at the law firm of Dorsey & Whitney with a base compensation of $225,000. She worked for them between 2006 and 2011. Dorsey had a written firm policy that stating that all compensation received by Dorsey Partners, associates or other attorneys was the property of the firm.
For several years prior to 2011, Attorney Placide represented individual immigration clients who hired her personally (outside clients) and paid her directly. Placide did not disclose the existence of these clients to Dorsey. She retained the funds and did not turn them over to Dorsey. An internal investigation by Dorsey determined that over the years she had collected over $56,700 from outside clients. Dorsey terminated Placide on November 14, 2011. In a separation agreement Placida agreed to repay Dorsey $50,923. Dorsey filed an ethics complaint against Placide.
In addition Placide’s engagement letters or agreements failed to include mandatory language that stated that such fees were the property of the lawyer on receipt. She failed to deposit received funds in a trust account instead used a personal account for funds. On at least one occasion she could not return funds because she had not deposited the outside client funds in a trust account.
In December 2011, Placide accepted employment as a shareholder at the law firm of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart. When asked why she was terminated by Dorsey, she told Ogletree it was because Dorsey found out that she was talking with Ogletree. While Ogletree did not explicit policy stating all clients were to be exclusively Ogletree clients, it was made known to Placide that this was the expectation for shareholders.
Placide began representing outside clients at Olgetree. She had received fees of at least $10,000 from outside clients. She repeatedly lied to Ogletree’s general counsel when confronted about Dorsey’s ethics complaint. She stated that Dorsey had approved the representation of outside clients. Initially she denied representing outside clients at Olgetree until confronted with documentation to the contrary. Placide entered into a settlement agreement with Olgetree promising to pay a specified amount for the outside client representation. But she had made no payments at the time of the disciplinary hearing.
The hearing office recommended that Placide be disbarred. The Washington State Bar Association Disciplinary Board (Board) voted unanimously to adopt the hearing office’s decision. Placide appealed the decision and on April 12, 2018, the Washington Supreme Court unanimously upheld the Board’s recommendation to disbar Placide.
The ABA article about this case, shows that Placide at an alternative view of the facts. She did not agree with the Washington Supreme Court decision. She has vowed to fight on.