An attorney’s private life involves the daily stuff that everyone deals 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 by at times by reminding the other party that they are an attorney.
Whether it is done verbally or in writing, trying to get an edge may expose the attorney and their firm to violating rules of professional conduct.
Many years ago, we were working with an attorney to obtain malpractice insurance coverage. The attorney had a grievance filed 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 his mother was receiving. In this very stressful situation, the attorney threatened to sue one of the nurses that was providing care for his mother unless that nurse improved the level of care. The attorney reminded her that as an attorney he could easily follow through with this 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. When the attorney got malpractice coverage it was not at the preferred premium 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 collides with the attorney’s professional life, caution should be exhibited to make sure that the meeting of these two worlds do not bring any slips or falls.
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Lee Norcross, MBA, CPCU
Managing Director, CEO
(616) 940-1101 Ext. 7080