Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Would this potentially subject you to ethics issues in your state?

Ran into a guy's website; so far as I can tell he was unable wutwutwut06/17/17
Yep. Depending on the state even the "and Associates" would therewillbeblood06/17/17
I assume he is just doing this for the referral fees cause i shikes06/17/17
My bar rarely disciplines unless you commit a crime. I guess fettywap06/17/17
I believe it is in New Joizey. isthisit06/17/17
"and associates" absolutely is (as is "Law Offices" of John sjlawyer06/19/17
Regarding offices, Texas has a rule requiring disclosure of jeffm06/17/17
In my state its deceptive unless you actually have attorneys vohod06/17/17
Not sure - why do you want to know? I mean christ on a crack uknownvalue06/17/17
Absolutely. Virtual offices have to be disclosed. There is n redemptionsong06/17/17
My boss many years ago got a bar complaint for running an ad fettywap06/17/17
Could those practices technically be unethical? Perhaps. Wil mrtor06/19/17
I can't speak for other states/jurisdictions but I know in N williamdrayton06/19/17
My state takes the position that using "& Associates" in you onehell06/19/17
No. This is very common practice in toilet law. So muc patenttrollnj06/20/17
wutwutwut (Jun 17, 2017 - 10:21 am)

Ran into a guy's website; so far as I can tell he was unable to get a lawjob after graduating a few years ago and hung a shingle. It happens.

But his website touts "Robert Smith and Associates" and lists across the top clickable "having Offices in" NYC, DC, Dallas, Chicago, LA, SF, etc. Lots of "We specialize in A-B-C-D-E...-X-Y-Z".

Each of those "offices" is a rentabox address and apparently "and Associates" is a fiction.

It's like he copied the format from a biglaw website and just ran with it.

If you did this and your bar took notice, would it be actionable?

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therewillbeblood (Jun 17, 2017 - 10:39 am)

Yep. Depending on the state even the "and Associates" would be a violation.

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shikes (Jun 17, 2017 - 10:42 am)

I assume he is just doing this for the referral fees cause its not like he has a license in all of those states. What a sad and pathetic attempt at clients. I believe both of those are a violation of ethics in my state.

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fettywap (Jun 17, 2017 - 10:50 am)

My bar rarely disciplines unless you commit a crime. I guess it depends on whether he's actually practicing law or running a different type of business.

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isthisit (Jun 17, 2017 - 11:18 am)

I believe it is in New Joizey.

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sjlawyer (Jun 19, 2017 - 11:47 am)

"and associates" absolutely is (as is "Law Offices" of John Smith and having only 1 office). Having offices in multiple locations where you pay a mailbox fee seems acceptable, but I think it depends on each Jx. Similarly, NJ Bar would rarely take action absent a complaint and even then you'd probably just get a letter telling you to change it.

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jeffm (Jun 17, 2017 - 6:52 pm)

Regarding offices, Texas has a rule requiring disclosure of the location of the main office, and if other mentioned offices are not open "full-time" (or something like that), you have to say meetings are those offices are by appointment only. I don't know about "offices" that don't exist at all.

Regarding "and associates." This is such a vague term, how could it be unethical? Many attorneys have loose associations with other attorneys. Some for referral. Some for bending an ear. These "associates" really do have value. Is there a rule that says "Associates" have to be employees?

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vohod (Jun 17, 2017 - 6:55 pm)

In my state its deceptive unless you actually have attorneys working under you.

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uknownvalue (Jun 17, 2017 - 7:50 pm)

Not sure - why do you want to know? I mean christ on a crack, give the kid a break.

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redemptionsong (Jun 17, 2017 - 8:49 pm)

Absolutely. Virtual offices have to be disclosed. There is no holding yourself as a larger firm than you actually are.

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fettywap (Jun 17, 2017 - 11:13 pm)

My boss many years ago got a bar complaint for running an ad that said he specializes in immigration law. We're not allowed to say we specialize in anything. Supposedly the advertiser messed up and he had the proof to show that wasn't what he ordered.

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mrtor (Jun 19, 2017 - 10:17 am)

Could those practices technically be unethical? Perhaps. Will any discipline actually result? Most likely not. There's no real deception or harm here. You easily and correctly deduced that he is a desperate solo with P.O. boxes trying to get referrals. Moreover, plenty of firms try to hold themselves out as focusing or specializing in certain practice areas. What's new here? If the bar even takes up a complaint, it would result in a cursory slap on the wrist.

To our knowledge, he's not pillaging client trust accounts, committing fraud, or neglecting client matters. He's simply a poor schlub trying to make a living.

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williamdrayton (Jun 19, 2017 - 10:27 am)

I can't speak for other states/jurisdictions but I know in NJ that the Ethics Committee does not have time to go trolling through advertisements made by some random young solo. generally they respond to complaints and they take most seriously those that involve direct fleecing of an actual client. anything like what OP describes is likely to get a slap on the wrist, at most,

though I will say this OP is nowhere close to the douchebag who posted here a few months ago who contemplated reporting some click monkey doc reviewers for ULP

(hat tip to mrtor, who just beat me to the punch)

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onehell (Jun 19, 2017 - 11:50 am)

My state takes the position that using "& Associates" in your name when you have no associates is misleading and therefore impermissible. A controversial amendment was recently adopted allowing trade names, but you still can't be misleading in name selection.

As to the geography thing, most jurisdictions do allow virtual offices (I think only NJ has the "bona fide office" rule), but even if that were OK, my understanding is that each office of a multijurisdictional practice has to have at least one lawyer assigned to that office who is licensed in the jurisdiction where the office is located. Is he licensed in every state where he has rented a mailbox/virtual office? If not, it could be a UPL issue as well as an issue of misleading clients as to the scope & size of his practice.

Also, it is a no-no in my state to use the word "specialize" unless you are certified as a specialist in that area. Otherwise, you're supposed to say "area of focus," or "practice limited to" or something like that.

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patenttrollnj (Jun 20, 2017 - 1:30 am)

No. This is very common practice in toilet law.

So much of what they teach in law school as being "unethical" is overlooked by the bar in practice. If they actually upheld these standards, most lawyers would be out of work.

In my opinion, this is one of the reasons why so many lawyers are depressed. It's soul-crushing to have to engage in fraud-lite activity just to be able to make a living, especially after 7+ years of schooling.

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