Some things – like real estate malpractice claims in North Carolina – never change.
Take a look at Lawyers Mutual’s claims numbers for 2012. More than one in three malpractice mishaps (35 percent) came in real property cases. It’s been pretty much the same story for the past few decades, give or take a few percentage points each year.
But real property lawyers in North Carolina have no reason to hang their heads. The same thing is happening all over the country.
Every few years, the American Bar Association does a survey of legal malpractice cases nationwide.
For five consecutive studies dating back to 1985, the practice area generating the most claims was personal injury-plaintiff work. Blown deadlines, botched discovery, bad trial strategy. These were the most frequent errors in every ABA malpractice study in the past quarter-century. Every. Single. One.
That is, until 2012.
“For the first time since the American Bar Association began conducting surveys of legal malpractice insurance claims beginning in 1985, insurers reported a higher percentage of claims involving real estate than any other area of law,” said a news release from the ABA Standing Committee on Lawyers’ Professional Liability.
“ABA Profile of Legal Malpractice Claims: 2008-2011” analyzed more than 50,000 lawyer malpractice claims from Alaska to Florida. The top three danger areas: (1) real estate, (2) personal injury-plaintiff, and (3) family law.
Real estate’s rise to the top began in 2007, when the economic meltdown led to the failure of countless property and business transactions. As the dominos began toppling, lawyers and their malpractice insurers provided tempting targets.
According to the study, the type of activity most likely to result in a mistake was “preparation, filing, and transmittal of documents.” This has ranked number one in prior surveys as well.
But for the first time, “bad advice” was the second-most-likely reported activity to blossom into a claim.
3 Tips to Avoid Becoming a Real Estate Malpractice Statistic
- Don’t dabble. Real estate is no place for the hobbyist. In fact, it is arguably the most complex area of law. Sometimes a single transaction can include issues of land ownership, title insurance, taxation, lien law, construction law, finance, civil litigation, government regulatory law, bankruptcy, trusts and estates and even family law.
- Remember where the buck stops. Although you may rely heavily on your support staff for legwork and document preparation, never forget that your law license – and your pocketbook – is on the line with every transaction.
- Call for help. Lawyers Mutual has a wealth of free risk management resources available on its website. For personal assistance, call the Lawyers Mutual claims department. You will speak with a North Carolina-licensed lawyer who not only has real estate practice experience but has likely dealt with the very problem that has you tied up in knots.
Calling Lawyers Mutual won’t get you penalized. In fact, it just might keep your name off the next ABA malpractice survey.
Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He treasures his autographed photo of Wayne Stephenson. Contact email@example.com, phone 919-619-2441.
For more information:
- ABA article on survey http://www.abanow.org/2012/09/real-estate-matters-top-list-of-legal-malpractice-claims-in-new-aba-survey/
- Order “Profile of Legal Malpractice Claims: 2008-2011” through the ABA Web Store or by calling 800-285-2221, requesting product code 4140045.
Have you attended a strategic planning session? Was it helpful? Did you leave with a plan? Are you working the plan?
I’ve participated in many such planning sessions with various law firms, practice groups in law firms or legal associations. Why do some of them work better than others?
Perhaps it’s partly driven by what happens during the vision stage – when we visualize our strategic session do we view it with excitement and thrill or as a task on a list that needs to be checked off?
Here are some tips for planning your next strategy session and making it a success.
Strategic Thinking vs. Planning
Do we really want to leave this session with 15 pages of notes that we condense into a plan? Or would we rather enter the session committed to clearing our calendar (and our heads) of outside thoughts and spending time focused on our firm or practice? I would vote for a time of focused thinking. Set your agenda, find a few articles that set the stage for the topics you want to cover, and share those items in advance.
Small Table Discussions
If you want to have more interaction among your attendees, set up round tables for discussion rather than a conference table. If you are at an off-site location, ask your hotel staff to set your room with crescent round tables. The table is ¾ filled so no one has their back to the speaker. More tables provide more discussion and opportunity for speaking during breakouts rather than working from a board style room set up.
Think about bringing in an outside facilitator. Someone with fresh ideas who is good at managing group discussion will keep you on track. Have the facilitator assist in designing the breakout discussions and questions that will get each table talking.
Set a time limit on discussion and then call everyone’s attention back to the facilitator to debrief. Go around and have tables share their highlights of discussion. Use a white board or easels to take notes. Following the meeting, take photos of the sheets with your camera phone and use to transcribe notes.
Have your facilitator share ideas or suggestions for follow up. Create a master list of ideas, prioritize and then turn these ideas into goals or tasks on your business plan. Some ideas need more research, some ideas need money, some need implementation right away, while others should be trashed. Set a due date for each step which includes collecting notes from the group, setting the master list, prioritizing, identifying who handles the high priority items and implementation.
Strategic thinking is different from strategic planning. It’s a very useful exercise for almost every organization. Set a date and happy thinking.
Camille Stell is the Vice President of Client Services for Lawyers Mutual. With over 20 years of experience in the legal field, Camille has worked for law firms as a paralegal, legal recruiter and business developer. Contact Camille at 800.662.8843 or Camille@lawyersmutualnc.com.
Lawyers nationwide provided an average of 57 hours of pro bono work in 2011 – with most of their efforts directed at helping people in poverty cope with everyday legal problems like avoiding eviction and applying for public assistance.
That’s according to a new ABA survey: “Supporting Justice III: A Report on the Pro Bono Work of America’s Lawyers.”
The research – from the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service – comes at a time when the profession is renewing its commitment to voluntary service. Last fall, for instance, the New York State Court of Appeals adopted a rule requiring applicants for admission to the New York State Bar to perform 50 hours of pro bono services. A number of other states are considering similar requirements.
“The report showcases the depth of the American legal profession’s longstanding and ongoing commitment to providing legal services to those unable to afford them,” said ABA President Laurel G. Bellows in the ABA Journal. “[I]t highlights valuable opportunities for us to encourage even more lawyers to volunteer their services to those in need.”
Here is how pro bono work corresponds to firm size:
- Lawyers from firms of 101 and more attorneys provided an average of 77.7 hours;
- Lawyers from firms of 51-100 attorneys provided an average of 39.9 hours;
- Lawyers from firms of 11-50 attorneys provided an average of 45.1 hours;
- Lawyers from firms of 2-10 attorneys provided an average of 58.5 hours;
- Solo practitioners provided an average of 62.7 hours.
Pro Bono Volunteers Go Above and Beyond
And here are some of the characteristics of the top pro bono volunteers:
- They are most likely to have received their referrals from an organized pro bono program.
- They do pro bono work even during economic downturns.
- They plan to keep doing pro bono even after they fulfill the minimum requirements.
- They tend to work for an employer that supports pro bono.
- They seek out pro bono opportunities rather than waiting to be called.
The survey suggests the best way to get lawyers to do pro bono is to simply ask them. Fully 70 percent of attorneys who were contacted directly by a pro bono program agreed to help out.
How to keep the pro bono momentum going? By building pro bono infrastructures at bar associations, encouraging support from employers, and creating new and interesting volunteer opportunities.
A final note: pro bono recipients were universally grateful for their lawyers. They said their lives had been enriched because of the volunteer experience.
Interestingly, the lawyers said exactly the same thing.
Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He thinks the best things in life are free. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 919-619-2441.
Source: American Bar Association http://www.abanow.org/2013/03/new-aba-report-reveals-legal-pro-bono-service-trends/
Off-the-cuff legal advice – especially in informal social settings – is rarely a good idea.
Sometimes it can lead to a malpractice claim.
Every lawyer has been hit up for legal advice at a party, youth soccer game or neighborhood cookout. These situations are usually easy to defuse. You can simply give the questioner a business card.
Or you can say, “Call me tomorrow during working hours.” Or pretend to have eaten one too many hot dogs to comprehend the question.
The tougher scenario is when good clients (meaning those who pay their bills) call in a panic needing an immediate answer to an urgent question. You want to help. Perhaps you can buy some time with a bit of innocuous, generic counsel.
The biggest danger is offering half-baked, hasty advice.
It is far wiser to drop back and punt. Give yourself time to gather the facts, do the necessary research and deliver an informed opinion. Your malpractice carrier will thank you.
Here is a real-life example, courtesy of risk manager Mark Bassingthwaighte from Attorneys Liability Protection Society.
An attorney got a call from a long-term client whose airplane was in the shop undergoing renovations. The client was unhappy with the manner of repair and the amount of the bill. He wanted to go get his plane, reasoning that he would have a stronger position in the fee dispute if he had the property in his possession.
The attorney – perhaps distracted, perhaps not realizing the client would act on his advice, or perhaps just wanting to get off the phone – gave a technically correct answer: “Yes, recovery of property that you already own is not illegal.” So the client went and got his plane. And was promptly arrested. And was sued in civil court for the unpaid bill. And lost. And filed a claim against his attorney for negligent advice.
To which the attorney’s defense was, in essence: “But I didn’t think my client was going to do that!” Which is to say, no defense at all.
7 Ways to Avoid Trouble From Informal Advice
- Don’t give advice in a vacuum. Context is always important. No matter what a client tells you, it is always smart to dig deeper. Review documents. Examine official records. Listen to other sides of the story.
- Beware pro se litigants lurking in courthouse hallways. “Such encounters usually start with, ‘Excuse me, but are you a lawyer? Can I ask you a quick question about my case?’” writes Evan S. Loeffler in the ABA’s GPSolo Magazine. “The attorney listens politely, gives a quick word of advice, and then has to fend off numerous follow-up questions as the interrogator seeks a crash course on the practice of law.”
- Be afraid, be very afraid. Tell your golfing buddy that any advice you have to offer regarding an incredibly convoluted business transaction – based on a few garbled facts shared on the front nine – would not only be worthless, but could well be harmful.
- Stick to what you know. Some people think every lawyer is expert in every area – from antitrust to zoning. A law degree is a law degree, right? Wrong. Offer referrals when appropriate.
- Schedule an appointment. Doctors don’t do brain surgery at Super Bowl parties. Instead of giving legal advice, whip out your calendar and set a formal appointment. This is sure to scare off many freeloaders
- Don’t travel to Oz. Media medical man Dr. Oz was sued by a man who burned his feet after wearing socks filled with hot rice as a sleep aid. The doctor recommended the home remedy on his television show in 2012.
- Follow the rules. N.C. Rule of Professional Conduct 1.4 says in part: “A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.”
And remember, a defense of “My client did what?” is no defense at all
Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He likes giving advice about how lawyers should give advice. Contact email@example.com, phone 919-619-2441.
- ABA GP Solo http://www.americanbar.org/content/newsletter/publications/gp_solo_magazine_home/gp_solo_magazine_index/solo_lawyer_ethics_attorney_client_relationship.html
- ALPS 411 http://www.alps411.com/blog/managing-your-practice---musings-of-a-risk-manager/but-i-didnt-think-my-client-was-going-to-do-that?goback=%2Egde_2185489_member_231121852
- Professional Liability Matters http://professionalliabilitymatters.com/2013/04/17/the-risks-of-online-consultation/
What happens to your law practice and clients when sudden tragedy strikes you, and your office is thrown into chaos and uncertainty because of your death, disability or acute illness? On many occasions over the past year, Lawyers Mutual has seen the extreme difficulties caused for some of our insureds or their loved ones by such unexpected events. A 55 year old senior partner was forced to retire suddenly from his three-partner firm because of an aggressive, and ultimately fatal, cancer leaving his other partners to handle his open files. After a 64 year old solo practitioner suffered a severe stroke, his spouse was faced with the dilemma of whether to close his practice or try to keep it open for him should he ever recover enough to practice again. A 37 year old solo practitioner was diagnosed with a rare cancer, and his surgery and subsequent treatments will leave him unable to attend to his law practice for many months. A 57 year old lawyer with a thriving family law practice died at her desk, leaving her partner to absorb dozens of open files on top of the heavy caseload the partner already had. Unless you and your law firm have an Emergency Plan, events such as these could result in material harm to your clients’ matters and untold heartache for your law partners and family.
The Ethics Rules contemplate such an Emergency Plan as inherent in our ethical obligation to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing clients, as stated in Comment 5 to Ethics Rule 1.3:
To prevent neglect of client matters in the event of a sole practitioner’s death or disability, the duty of diligence may require that each sole practitioner prepare a plan, in conformity with applicable rules, that designates another competent lawyer to review client files, notify each client of the lawyer’s death or disability, and determine whether there is a need for immediate protective action.
Such an Emergency Plan is essential for a lawyer to have in place to minimize and mitigate any adverse consequences that the lawyer’s unexpected circumstances might cause to his or her clients. A simple checklist for items that all solo or small firm Emergency Plans should have in place includes the following:
- Copy of bank’s forms for trust account access for the Emergency Attorney.
- Power of Attorney authorizing the Emergency Attorney to run the business as needed, including as trust account signatory.
- List of passwords for computer, email, smartphones, and online bank accounts.
- Updated list or spreadsheet of all client files that need to be transferred or closed.
- Instructions for family and personal representative of your estate about the responsibilities of the Emergency Attorney.
- Contact information for the Emergency Attorney.
- Updated list of firm contacts such as clients, employees, vendors, insurers, etc.
- Draft of letters to clients re notification about deceased lawyer and authorizing release of client file to the Emergency Attorney.
You should start developing your Emergency Plan by referring to the Lawyers Mutual risk management handout -- Closing A Law Practice: Through Retirement, Moving to a New Firm, or Death of a Fellow Lawyer. The forms and resources referred to in the handout should help you recognize the many issues that unexpected tragedy can cause and devise a plan that fits your firm’s needs. Should you need additional advice or resources as you are formulating or implementing an Emergency Plan, feel free to call our claims attorneys at Lawyers Mutual.
Another resource is to contact Camille Stell or Patrick Brown in our Client Services Department to conduct a Practice Management Review with your firm. One piece of such a review would include emergency planning. You are never too young or too healthy to have a firm emergency plan.
Warren Savage joined the Lawyers Mutual as claims counsel in 2005. He focuses on litigation, criminal defense, appellate advocacy, and professional responsibility in his work with Lawyers Mutual. A former partner with the law firm of Bailey & Dixon in Raleigh, Warren graduated from the University of Virginia and earned a Master of Arts in Teaching at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before graduating magna cum laude from Campbell University School of Law. He spent several years as a high school English teacher. Contact Warren at 800.662.8843 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s yet another reason to fear the dreaded “Reply to All” email button.
Clicking it might be unethical.
That’s the upshot of a new ethics ruling from the N.C. State Bar. 2012 FEO 7 says you can’t send a copy of an email to a represented party without the express consent of that party’s attorney. This is so even if the other attorney started it – by sending you the initial email and copying their client.
The basis for the opinion is Rule 4.2(a) – sometimes called the no-contact rule – which requires lawyers to keep their hands off clients known to be represented by counsel.
This applies to email, snail mail and other communications. The fact that an opposing lawyer sends you an email and copies their own client does not constitute implied consent to a “reply to all” response from you.
According to 2012 FEO 7:
Rule 4.2 contributes to the proper functioning of the legal system by “protecting a person who has chosen to be represented by a lawyer in a matter against possible overreaching by other lawyers who are participating in the matter, interference by those lawyers with the client-lawyer relationship, and the uncounselled disclosure of information relating to the representation.”
Comment  to Rule 4.2 provides that the rule “applies even though the represented person initiates or consents to the communication.”
The protections of Rule 4.2 are so important, the State Bar said, that they cannot be waived by the client.
Other states – notably New York and California – have considered the application of Rule 4.2 to email communications and reached different conclusions. In both of those states, the ethics authorities have concluded that consent to “reply to all” communications may sometimes be inferred from the facts and circumstances of any specific situation. See: Ass’n of the Bar of the City of NY Comm. on Prof’l and Judicial Ethics, Formal Op. 2009-1; CA. Standing Comm. on Prof’l Responsibility & Conduct, Formal Op. 2011-181.
But both rulings sound cautionary warnings.
The New York opinion says a lawyer who relies on implied consent “runs the risk that the represented person’s lawyer has not consented to the direct communication” and that to avoid any possibility of running afoul of the no-contact rule, “the prudent course is to secure express consent.” The California opinion says it is not appropriate for lawyers to “stretch improperly to find implied consent” and that even where consent may be implied, the better practice is to expressly confirm it in writing.
So be careful to check the “cc” and “recipient” lines on incoming emails – and text messages too, for that matter. Make sure you reply only to opposing counsel. Otherwise, you might be clicking on a State Bar grievance.
Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He enjoys mowing his lawn. Contact email@example.com, phone 919-619-2441.
Source: N.C. State Bar 2012 FEO 7 http://www.ncbar.com/ethics/propeth.asp
In less than 10 minutes a day – and without spending a cent – you can have a law office filled with employees who will walk through fire for you.
Simply go over to each one’s desk, look them in the eye, and tell them how much you appreciate their valuable work. Try it for a week and see the results.
Management experts like Kevin Kruse remind us that employees – especially those who work in professional offices – are most motivated by these things:
- Appreciation. Do I feel valued?
- Recognition. Do I think my work is important?
- Professional growth. Do I believe I am learning new things and developing my career?
- Trust and confidence. Do I trust the firm’s leadership and have confidence in the future?
Feeling appreciated—which stems from recognition by others—is a top driver of employee engagement. The good news is that showing appreciation doesn’t have to take all day or cost an arm and a leg.
So if you happened to miss Employee Appreciation Day (which came and went March 1), here are some ways to make it up, courtesy of Forbes Magazine.
13 Ways to Make Employees Shine
- Offer a sincere word of thanks.
- Post a thank-you note on their door so everyone can see it.
- Make.an “ABCD” card for someone who goes “Above the Call of Duty.”
- Post a personal profile on the firm’s website.
- Honor them at the start of the next staff meeting.
- Put a “thank you” sign in the lobby with their name on it.
- Give them a card with a movie ticket inside.
- Give them the afternoon off.
- Award them a gift certificate to a nearby coffee shop.
- Send a note or Southern Season basket to their spouse or partner.
- Arrange to have their car washed.
- Let them bring their pet to work.
- Offer to do their job for an hour – or for the whole day.
Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. It is untrue that he auditioned for the role of Boo Radley. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 919-619-2441.
Life is packed full of transition. We begin new jobs and retire from careers. Children are born and they fly the nest. Houses are bought and sold. Relationships begin and end. And yet when transition comes, we often resist, fighting what’s happening, even when it brings positive change.
When transition knocked on my door, I wasn’t ready. Divorcing after 17 years of marriage meant that I was simultaneously out of my marriage, home and career. I resisted. But three tools kept me company on my journey of professional and personal transition and helped keep me focused on what I was moving toward, rather than just what I was leaving behind. When my executive coaching clients are navigating career or job change, or finding their way through personal transitions, I encourage them to consider the following three practices, whether they’re leading companies, or just leading their lives. Research in positive psychology shows these tools to be underpinnings of our well-being and happiness, good things to have as we are sailing the seas of transition.
- Cultivate a Centering Practice. No meditation necessary. Just do something that grounds you in peace and calm. One of my executive coaching clients found that coming home at the end of his day and taking his dog for a long, slow walk, melted away stress and brought him peace. Once we practice finding our way back to calm from a state of stress, we know the way and it gets easier. From there, we can see our options with more clarity and respond, rather than just react.
- Cultivate Your Thinking. Actively notice and name the good stuff. In his book Buddha’s Brain, neuropsychologist Rick Hanson writes, “your brain preferentially scans for, registers, stores, recalls, and reacts to unpleasant experiences…” To balance that, we actively can look for the positive and, as Hanson says, “savor the experience.” When we notice and name the good stuff, it refuels and sustains us and keeps us oriented toward the positive in the face of challenge.
- Cultivate a Gratitude Practice. Few things create positive emotion like gratitude, particularly when times are stressful. You can make a list for yourself and write it in a notebook or just keep it in your head. You can write a note to someone for whom you are grateful. You can remember something in the past or anticipate something in the future. You can pause in the moment and be thankful. The trick is turning your brain in the direction of gratitude.
Transition knocked hard when it came to me, but I’m glad that I finally opened the door and moved toward what I wanted rather than resisting what I didn’t.
Sarah Levitt is an executive coach and speaker who uses the best tools and techniques available to help create positive change in individuals and organizations. She works one-on-one with executives and in groups with senior management teams. She has worked with the NCBA, UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, and private law firms. Sarah can be reached at email@example.com or www.sarah-levitt.com.
(This article was originally printed in the Lawyers Mutual April 2013 newsletter.)
John Hester – Senior Claims Counsel at Lawyers Mutual – could have ended up in Hollywood.
Instead, he has just won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Triangle Business Journal in recognition of his stellar 40-year legal career.
As a young boy in the early 1960s, John auditioned for a role in the film To Kill A Mockingbird. He didn’t land a part in the Oscar-winning classic, but he did fall in love with the law.
After graduating from N.C. State and N.C. Central law school, John was licensed in North Carolina in 1975. He worked in private practice, corporate law and public service before joining Lawyers Mutual as claims counsel in 1985. He was been with the country’s first lawyer-owned legal malpractice carrier ever since.
At Lawyers Mutual, he helped build a Claims Department that has won national acclaim for its personal, peer-based philosophy of handling malpractice claims.
“Being able to work with lawyers every day is a great feeling,” says John. “I help them understand that everything is going to be okay. I tell them I’ve seen this problem before and I know how to get it resolved. I think that’s a real benefit for an insurance company, not just to pay a claim but to be there to listen and help our customers.”
A centerpiece of John’s work at Lawyers Mutual is its Claims Repair program, which encourages lawyers to promptly report case problems. Through early detection and swift remedial action – sometimes with the help of specialized outside counsel – potential malpractice bombs are defused before they explode into lawsuits. The program has a phenomenal 90 percent success rate and saves the company $2 million annually.
“Lawyers Mutual is grateful to have John,” said Dan Zureich, President and CEO of Lawyers Mutual, in a news release. “He has served the lawyers of North Carolina with compassion and distinction for more than 25 years.”
This was the first time the Triangle Business Journal had ever handed out a Corporate Counsel Lifetime Achievement Award. Future recipients will look back and see “John Hester” as the first name on the list.
“I enjoy coming to work each day,” John says. “I get to meet fine attorneys and help them with problems in their cases. Sometimes they call me years later and mention a matter we worked on together that I’ve long forgotten. That is truly a pleasure.”
Atticus Finch would approve.
Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. It is untrue that he auditioned for the role of Boo Radley. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 919-619-2441.
Source: Triangle Business Journal http://www.bizjournals.com/triangle/blog/2013/04/meet-the-in-house-lawyers-who-won-at.html
I never knew when I joined the North Carolina State Bar that I was signing up for life.
But then I read the latest State Bar Journal and learned that membership is like the Hotel California: you can check out – by death or disbarment – but you can never leave.
The article in question is “Hello! You Must Be Going!” by Executive Director Tom Lunsford.
In it, the author explains that it is easy to lose your law license (by stealing money from your trust account), hard to get it back (by petitioning for reinstatement, which rarely happens), and impossible to voluntarily resign (by saying bye bye).
It seems this was more than a merely theoretical discussion. A lawyer had approached the State Bar wanting to resign from the Bar and “regain his status as a non-lawyer.”
“Surprisingly, I cannot recall that this issue has ever come up before,” writes Mr. Lunsford. “Anyway, I’m not sure that it’s possible to quit. After all, the statutes make no reference to resignation. They merely advise us that all members of the North Carolina State Bar are either active or inactive. The only express means of disassociation is disbarment. I assume that death will also sever the connection, but am doubtful that one can just pick up one’s marbles and go home, as it were.”
The reason: lawyers who have committed misconduct could escape the State Bar’s disciplinary clutches by simply dropping their law license in the mail and skipping town. They could relocate to a more obliging locale – South Carolina, say – and seek admission there based on an unblemished record.
By the same token, trust account thieves could head for the coast (in the Palmetto State of course) after receiving notice of an audit but before the auditors show up.
I get the logic. Sort of. Although my guess is that neither of these two circumstances would occur with much frequency, even if resignations were readily granted and each ex-lawyer was presented with a gold watch and best wishes in Myrtle Beach.
It just seems a bit weird – tyrannical, even – not being able to up and bolt if you feel like it. This is America, right? You’re telling us we can quit smoking, eating red meat and watching Storage Wars, but we can’t quit the State Bar?
It’s like standing in line for hours at Disneyworld for a ride on the Spinning Teacups or Tower of Terror only to be told you can never get off.
But it’s probably no big deal. You can get to basically the same place through a simple, one-page Petition for Transfer to Inactive Status.
Or you can wait for the State Bar to initiate your departure by:
- Not submitting your 2012 CLE compliance paperwork, which was due more than a month ago;
- Not paying the Bar’s invoice for 2012 CLE fees (if you owe any); or
- Not following the Rules of Professional Conduct.
So forget about trying to voluntarily resign. It’s too much trouble. And besides, you don’t want to be looking over your shoulder the next time you visit South Carolina.
Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina (active) and South Carolina (inactive). Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He grew up near Myrtle Beach. Contact email@example.com, phone 919-619-2441.