Top rated Professional Liability attorney in Palm Harbor, FloridaLaw Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.
Practice Areas: Professional Liability, Administrative Law; view more
Licensed in Florida since: 1985
Education: Mercer University Walter F. George School of Law
Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.2999 US-19 ALT
Palm Harbor, FL 34683 Visit website
Joseph A. Corsmeier is an AV rated Palm Harbor, Florida-based attorney focusing his practice on legal ethics and professional responsibility, lawyer discipline defense, Bar admission, ethics advice, and license admission and discipline defense. He is the president and owner of the Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A. and Mr. Corsmeier serves clients throughout the State of Florida.
Mr. Corsmeier has over 25 years of experience representing attorneys and other professionals in many different types of hearings before the Florida Board of Bar Examiners, The Florida Bar and the Florida Supreme Court. He handles issues involving professional conduct, professional discipline, expert testimony and attorney discipline.
Prior to concentrating on defending attorneys in ethical matters and his other areas of practice, Mr. Corsmeier spent over eight years serving as a prosecutor for The Florida Bar Department of Lawyer Regulation and he has been working on the defense side of lawyer ethics and professional responsibility matters since 1998.
Martindale-Hubbell has awarded Mr. Corsmeier an AV Preeminent* peer review rating. This is the highest available rating, intended to recognize outstanding legal capability and high ethical standards.
Mr. Corsmeier belongs to the St. Petersburg Bar Association, The Florida Bar, the American Bar Association and the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers. He is also a member of the Clearwater Bar Association, previously serving as president-elect and on the board of directors.
Mr. Corsmeier earned a bachelor’s degree from Florida State University and received his law degree from Mercer University School of Law. He holds a license to practice law before all Florida state courts, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida and the Supreme Court of the United States.
*AV®, AV Preeminent®, Martindale-Hubbell Distinguished and Martindale-Hubbell Notable are certification marks used under license in accordance with the Martindale-Hubbell certification procedures, standards and policies. Martindale-Hubbell® is the facilitator of a peer review rating process. Ratings reflect the anonymous opinions of members of the bar and the judiciary. Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Rating™ fall into two categories – legal ability and general ethical standards.
Practice areasProfessional Liability: Defense, Administrative Law
Ethics & Professional Responsibility, Licensing, Professional Malpractice - Other
- 80% Professional Liability: Defense
- 20% Administrative Law
First Admitted: 1985, Florida
Professional Webpage: https://www.jac-law.com/
- Juris Doctor: Mercer University Walter George School of Law, Macon, Georgia Undergraduate Bachelor of Arts: Florida State University
- Author of numerous articles for various bar publications, has spoken at numerous local and statewide seminars on various topics, including ethics and professionalism, and was an instructor of legal ethics for paralegals at Rollins College., Author, Numerous articles and blogs on lawyer ethics rules and cases
- This Ethics Alert discusses the recent American Bar Association (ABA) Formal Ethics Opinion 492, which addresses the obligations of lawyers to prospective clients, including confidentiality, and conflicts of interest, including potential disqualifying conflicts after the lawyer obtains “significantly harmful” information. The link to ABA Formal Opinion 492 is here: https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/professional_responsibility/aba-formal-opinion-492.pdf, Ethics Alert, ABA Formal Ethics Opinion 492 addresses lawyer’s obligations to prospective clients after obtaining “significantly harmful” information , Blog, Law, Legal Ethics, 2021
- E-mail has certainly become the primary form of communication for most lawyers (even more than texting and Zoom); however, lawyers must always remember that their e-mails could be read not only by the intended recipients but also by third parties. A lawyer’s e-mails can (and do) also become potential evidence in Bar discipline hearings and malpractice lawsuits and lawyers should not assume that communications with clients, opposing counsel, and others or even within their own law firm are protected from disclosure., Ethics Alert, The ethical and professional risks and hazards of sending e-mails and tips on how to avoid them, Blog, Law, Legal Ethics, 2020
- This Ethics Alert discusses the recent decision by New York to eliminate the current mental health question regarding current mental, emotional, psychiatric, nervous or behavioral disorder or condition, or alcohol, drug or other substance abuse or gambling addiction conditions or impairments which impairs or limits the applicant’s ability to practice law on Bar applications. , Ethics Alert, New York removes current mental health and impairment question from NY Bar admission application, Blog, Law, Legal Ethics, 2020
- This Ethics Alert discusses the recent Ohio Supreme Court opinion indefinitely suspending an Ohio lawyer who stole over $128,674.30 from mentally ill client, including charging hourly rate for mowing her lawn, helping find an apartment, and shopping for her. , Ethics Alert, Ohio lawyer who stole $128,674.30 from mentally ill client, including charging hourly rate for mowing her lawn, indefinitely suspended, Blog, Law, Legal Ethics, 2020
- Admitted, Supreme Court of the United States Admitted, United States District Court, Middle District of Florida Admitted, United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit Bar Admitted, The Florida Bar, 2020
- Admitted to U.S Middle District of Florida, 1986
- Admitted to U.S 11th Circuit Court of Appeals., 1988
- Member, Supreme Court of the United States Bar Member, United States District Court, Middle District of Florida Bar Member, United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit Bar Member, American Bar Association (Professionalism Section) Member, Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers Member, The Florida Bar's Professionalism (Hawkins) Commission 2011-2012 Member, The Florida Bar's Vision 2016 Commission 2013-2016 Member, The Florida Bar’s Special Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services- 2020-2021 Clearwater Bar Association (1986-present) (Board of Directors 2004-2008, President-Elect 2008-2009, President 2009-2010, Immediate Past President 2010-2011) St. Petersburg Bar Association (1987-present) American Bar Association Center for Prof. Responsibility CLE Committee (2014-present) The Florida Bar, Student Education and Admission to the Bar Committee, 2018-2019, 2019-2020. The Florida Bar, Professional Ethics Committee, (2007-2013) Law Office Management Advisory Services, Inc. Advisory Board (2007-2013) (Board Vice-Chair 2011-2013) The Florida Bar, Law Student Education and Admission to The Bar Committee (2005-2006, 2018-2020) Board Member, Thomson Reuters/Super Lawyers Ethics Advisory Board Panel Member, Westlaw Expert Round Table Group AV” Rated, Martindale-Hubbell Rated as “Superlawyer” 2007-2013, 2015-2019 Pro bono, Community Law Program: Certificates of Appreciation for “Outstanding dedication in providing pro bono legal services to the indigent of Pinellas County- 1995, 1996, 1997, and 1998 Marquis' Who's Who in American Law, 14th Edition, 2005 ABA Center for Professional Responsibility Continuing Legal Education Committee 2014-2015, 2020
- Pro bono, Community Law Program: Certificates of Appreciation for “Outstanding dedication in providing pro bono legal services to the indigent of Pinellas County- 1995, 1996, 1997, and 1998, Certificates of Appreciation for “Outstanding dedication in providing pro bono legal services to the indigent of Pinellas County, Community Law Program, 2022
- Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert, which will discuss the Arizona Supreme Court’s recent issuance of an Alternative Business Structure (ABS) license authorizing a non-lawyer owned legal services provider called Elevate to integrate with an Arizona law firm. In 2020, Arizona became the first state to eliminate Rule 5.4 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which prohibits nonlawyers from having an economic interest in a law firm or participating in attorney fee-sharing. Arizona has been licensing alternative business structures since 2021 and there have been multiple approved ABS applications, including an application filed by LegalZoom to operate as LZ Legal Services in the state. Elevate was granted an ABS license to operate in Arizona in conjunction and integration with an Arizona law firm. The entity filed an application to be licensed as an ABS called ElevateNext and stated that it would focus on assisting clients with general corporate matters. Elevate’s January 13, 2022 press release/announcement states: “The Arizona Supreme Court granted law company Elevate an Alternative Business Structure (ABS) license, making Elevate and its affiliated law firm, ElevateNext, a single entity. This makes Elevate the first non-lawyer-owned law company, LPO, or ALSP in the United States with an integrated law firm. The ABS-licensed firm uniquely positions Elevate to address customer needs that require some aspect of legal practice along with technology, consulting, or services for ‘run the company’ business operations. “For decades, ethics rules of the various U.S. states prohibited ownership of law firms by non-lawyers. In 2020, Arizona became the first state to eliminate this prohibition. Elevate’s application was approved unanimously by the Arizona Supreme Court in late 2021.” The link to Elevate’s press release is here: https://elevateservices.com/news/elevate-becomes-first-ever-law-company-to-receive-an-alternative-business-structure-abs-license-in-the-u-s/ Bottom line: The Arizona Supreme Court's decision to revise the state’s Bar rules and permit non-lawyers and non-traditional entities to become licensed and involved in legal practice and the legal process is part of a growing trend, mostly in the western U.S. states. As I previously blogged here: https://jcorsmeier.wordpress.com/2020/08/18/utah-supreme-court-authorizes-pilot-program-which-inter-alia-permits-non-lawyers-to-own-law-firms-and-share-fees-with-lawyers/, the Utah Supreme Court also approved a two-year "regulatory sandbox" pilot program permitting non-lawyers to experiment with different methods of delivering legal services outside of the existing regulatory framework. Washington, D.C. and some other states are also considering potential revisions related to easing the restrictions on non-lawyer involvement in the practice of law. I will continue to monitor this trend. Be careful out there., Arizona Supreme Court authorizes Elevate, a nonlawyer-owned alternative legal services provider, to integrate with law firm, Law, Lawyers, 2022
- Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert blog which will discuss new ABA Formal Ethics Opinion 501 which states that lawyers are prohibited from direct solicitation of potential clients and have an ethical obligation to ensure that employees and others retained by the lawyer/law firm do not engage in such improper solicitation. ABA Formal Opinion 501 is here: https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/professional_responsibility/aba-formal-opinion-501.pdf The formal ethics opinion confirms that a solicitation under ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 7.3(a) is any communication initiated on or behalf of a lawyer or a law firm directed to a specific person that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know needs legal services. The rule permits the direct, face-to-face solicitation if the contacted person is a lawyer, a family member or a close friend or a person who routinely uses the types of services offered by the lawyer. The opinion addresses a lawyer’s ethical responsibilities regarding third parties who solicit on behalf of the lawyer. Model Rule 8.4(a) provides that it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to knowingly assist or induce another to violate the rules, including impermissible solicitation and the lawyer is subject to discipline under 8.4(a) if the lawyer knows of the third party’s conduct or requests or authorizes it. According to the opinion: “It would be manifestly unfair and illogical to hold a lawyer responsible for another’s actions that the lawyer does not even know about,” according to the opinion. In addition, lawyers can violate Model Rule 5.3, which provides that lawyers generally are responsible for the ethical conduct of their employees, including nonlawyers. Under Model Rule 5.3, lawyers with supervisor authority “must discuss ethical rules with these employees,” including the rule against solicitation in Model Rule 7.3. The opinion distinguishes between “what constitutes a prohibited ‘solicitation’ on behalf of the lawyer versus merely making a recommendation about the lawyer can be complicated” and provides four hypotheticals of solicitation and then explains whether they are permissible or impermissible. The first three include: The lawyer obtained a list of people arrested and from a local sheriff and calls the people to offer legal services. The lawyer hires a professional lead generator to obtain client leads for mass tort cases. A paralegal at a law firm, who is also a paramedic, solicits accident victims on behalf of the law firm. According to the opinion, the lawyer violates the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct by either engaging in direct solicitation in violation of Model Rule 7.3(b), knowingly assisting another in violation of the rules under Model Rule 8.4(a) or failing to educate and train nonlawyer legal assistants on ethical responsibilities under Model Rules 5.3(b) and 5.3(c). In a fourth hypothetical, the lawyer asks a banker, who is a personal friend or colleague, to provide the lawyer’s name and contact information to anyone that might need estate planning. The opinion states that the lawyer’s conduct is not improper since “(R)ecommendations or referrals by third parties who are not employees of a lawyer and whose communications are not directed to make specific statements to particular potential clients on behalf of a lawyer do not constitute ‘solicitations.’” Bottom line: This ABA formal opinion provides guidance to lawyers on preventing improper solicitation by nonlawyer employees and by the lawyer. Be careful out there., ABA Formal Ethics Opinion 501 states that lawyers have an obligation to ensure that employees do not solicit clients, Lawyers, Legal Profession, 2022
- Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert blog which will discuss the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers (APRL) recommendation that the ABA change its model rules to allow licensed lawyers to provide legal services in any state. The 4/18/22 APRL letter to the ABA president is here: https://aprl.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/Letter-regarding-our-proposal-to-ABA-President.pdf APRL is a group of more than 400 lawyers and legal academics who, inter alia, provide advice on legal ethics matters. I am a member of the group. Brian Faughnan, president of APRL, sent the letter to ABA President Reginald Turner proposing a change to Model Rule 5.5 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which can be adopted by the states and other jurisdictions. Model Rule 5.5 governs unauthorized practice of law and multijurisdictional practice. According to the letter “(the) proposal advocates that a lawyer admitted in any United States jurisdiction should be able to practice law and represent willing clients without regard to the geographic location of the lawyer or the client, without regard to the forum where the services are to be provided, and without regard to which jurisdiction’s rules apply at a given moment in time.” “At the same time, our new Model Rule 5.5 would still preserve judicial authority in each state to regulate who appears in state courts, emphasizes that lawyers must be competent under Rule 1.1 no matter where they are practicing or what kind of legal services they are providing, and ensures that lawyers will be subject to the disciplinary jurisdiction of not only their state of licensure but wherever they practice.” The recommended rule change would require lawyers to disclose where they are admitted to practice, and lawyers could not practice in a different jurisdiction if they have been suspended or disbarred. Current Model Rule 5.5 states a lawyer not admitted to practice in a particular jurisdiction is prohibited from establishing an office or continuous presence in that jurisdiction, except as authorized by the ethics rules or other law. The Model Rules permits a lawyer to practice in the particular jurisdiction on a temporary basis, including associating with a local lawyer however, there are also exceptions for in-house lawyers. A report prepared by a subcommittee of the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers that developed the rule states that the proposed rule change emphasizes the concept of clients’ right to choose counsel “and acknowledges that protecting clients from incompetent lawyering does not require artificial boundaries.” As reasons for the rule change, the report cites the gap in the public’s access to justice and the fact that there are too few or no lawyers in some geographic areas. The report further states that the rule change could also benefit underemployed and unemployed lawyers who are willing to provide legal services to underserved areas. The report states that reciprocity rules that allow lawyers to practice in additional states are not “an adequate solution.” Eleven states do not offer reciprocity, and those that do offer reciprocity impose burdens, such as a length of practice requirement, different standards for continuing legal education, and delay in approval. The ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility will most likely review the possible rule changes and ask for input from public hearings and written comments. Any proposed rule change would have to be approved by the ABA House of Delegates. Bottom line: There are periodic pushes for rules to permit lawyers to provide legal services in all states; however, none of the previous efforts got very far. We will see if this proposal moves forward. Be careful out there., APRL recommends that ABA Model Rules be revised to permit lawyers to provide legal services in all states , Lawyers, Legal Profession, 2022
- Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert, which will discuss the Florida Bar Board of Governor’s (BOG) review of a proposed amendment to Florida Bar Rule 3-5.2 regarding emergency suspension of lawyers charged with a felony crime in either state or federal court. The BOG is expected to consider the proposed amendment to Florida Bar Rule 3-5.2 at its January 21, 2022 meeting. The BOG Disciplinary Procedure Committee’s draft amendment resulted from a June 11, 2021 letter from the Florida Supreme Court wherein the justices noted that Rule 3-7.2 “pertains to felony determinations or judgments of guilt, both of which only occur at the conclusion of the criminal matter” and requested that the Bar review the rule and require a temporary suspension for lawyers who are charged with felonies in state or federal court. The proposed amendment would add new subdivision (b) allowing an emergency suspension where a lawyer has been charged with a felony in state or federal court. The proposed amendment also requires the Bar to file a document called “Notice of Institution of Felony Charge Causing Great Public Harm” if the Bar determines, after review, that an emergency suspension is warranted “because the allegations in the charging documents, if proven, would establish clearly and convincingly that the lawyer appears to be causing great public harm.” The amendment also permits the lawyer to file a motion to dissolve the emergency suspension after it is imposed and request that the appointed referee dissolve the suspension. At its January 21, 2022 meeting, the Board will also consider a Disciplinary Procedure Committee proposal to amend Florida Bar Rule 3-7.2 that would require Florida Bar members who enter any pre-trial diversion program in any criminal case, or who receive a censure or reprimand in another state, to notify The Florida Bar. If approved, the proposed amendments will be forwarded to the Supreme Court for final consideration. Copies of the proposed amendment and back up BOG agenda documents are available upon request to The Florida Bar’s public records department. Bottom line: This proposed Bar Rule 3-5.2 amendment, if approved by the BOG and implemented by the Florida Supreme Court, may create constitutional issues since individuals who are charged with crimes are presumed innocent until proven guilty by clear and convincing evidence. I will continue to follow this and will provide updates when available. Be careful out there. , Florida Bar Board of Governors to consider amendment to Bar Rule 3-5.2 regarding emergency suspension of lawyers charged with a felony crime, Law, Lawyers, 2022
- This Ethics Alert discusses the recent Florida Bar Ethics Committee’s (PEC) approval of revised proposed advisory opinion (PAO) 20-1 providing guidance on responding to online criticism and request that the Florida Bar’s Board of Governors (BOG) instruct it to prepare a wider opinion on the issue. The initial PEC proposed advisory opinion PAO 20-1 is here: https://www.floridabar.org/ethics/etprop-advisory/. , Florida Bar Ethics Committee requests Board of Governors to approve wider opinion on responding to online criticism, Law, Legal Ethics, Bar Rules, Lawyer Responses To Online Complaints And Negative Reviews, 2021
- This Ethics Alert discusses the Proposed Advisory Opinion issued by the Florida Bar’s Standing Committee on the Unlicensed Practice of Law stating that an out-of-state lawyer may practice federal law remotely from his Florida home. Proposed UPL Advisory Opinion FAO #201904 is here: https://www-media.floridabar.org/uploads/2020/07/Complete-FAO-2019-4-Opinion-1.pdf , Florida UPL Committee issues proposed opinion stating that out-of-state lawyer may practice federal law remotely from Florida home , Law, Legal Ethics, Bar Rules, Lawyer Out Of State Practice, 2021
- This Ethics Alert discusses the recent decision by the Florida Bar’s Professional Ethics Committee to examine the ethical issues and risks of a lawyer’s use of online payment services, such as LawPay, PayPal, Venmo, Google Pay, and Apple Pay. , Florida Bar Professional Ethics Committee will review the ethical risks of lawyers’ use of online payment methods, Law, Legal Ethics, Bar Rules, Lawyer Use Of Online Payment Methods, 2021
- This Ethics Alert discusses American Bar Association (ABA) Formal Opinion 495, which addresses ethics issues related to lawyers working remotely and provides guidance ABA Formal Opinion 495 is here: https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/professional_responsibility/aba-formal-opinion-495.pdf, ABA Formal Opinion 495 addresses ethics and UPL issues related to lawyers working remotely and provides guidance, Law, Legal Ethics, Bar Rules, Lawyer Remote Practice, 2021
- E-mail has certainly become the primary form of communication for most lawyers (even more than texting and Zoom); however, lawyers must always remember that their e-mails could be read not only by the intended recipients but also by third parties. A lawyer’s e-mails can (and do) also become potential evidence in Bar discipline hearings and malpractice lawsuits and lawyers should not assume that communications with clients, opposing counsel, and others or even within their own law firm are protected from disclosure., The ethical and professional risks and hazards of sending e-mails and tips on how to avoid them, Law, Legal Ethics, 2020
- This Ethics Alert discusses the recent U.S. District Judge for the District of Eastern Pennsylvania’s opinion and preliminary injunction prohibiting enforcement of a disciplinary rule broadly prohibiting discrimination by lawyers as violative of the free speech component of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The case is Greenburg v. Haggerty, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Case No. 20-3822, U.S. District Court Judge enjoins Pennsylvania from enforcing Bar rule with broad lawyer anti-discrimination prohibitions, Law, Legal Ethics, Bar Rules, Anti-discrimination Ethics Rules, 2021
- Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert blog which will discuss the March 3, 2016 Florida Supreme Court Order and reprimanding a lawyer for failing to pay a provider who held a letter of protection in a personal injury matter from the proceeds of a personal injury settlement. The case is: The Florida Bar v. Daniel J. Grieco, II, Case No.: SC16-225, TFB File No.: 215-10,507 (6A) (March 3, 2016)., Florida Supreme Court reprimands lawyer for distributing settlement funds without paying medical provider which had letter of protection, 2016
- This article discusses the ethical risks and dangers of e-mails and provide tips on how to avoid them. E-mail has certainly become the primary form of communication for most lawyers (even more than texting and Zoom); however, particularly in these strange pandemic times, lawyers must always remember that their e-mails may ultimately be read not only by the intended recipients, but also by third parties and may also create other ethics issues for the lawyer. , The ethical and professional risks of sending e-mails and tips on how to avoid them, Law, Legal Ethics, 2020
- This Ethics Alert discusses the recent vote by the Florida Bar’s Professional Ethics Committee (PEC) to publish a proposed ethics advisory opinion providing guidance to lawyers in responding to negative online reviews and complaint for comment. , Florida Bar Ethics Committee votes to publish proposed opinion providing guidance in responding to negative online reviews, Law, Legal Ethics, 2020
- Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert, which will discuss a recent disbarment of a lawyer who continued to practice law for 17 years while suspended for failing to pay the annual registration fee., Pennsylvania lawyer disbarred after practicing law for 17 years while under administrative suspension, Law, 2019
- Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert, which discusses the recent sanctions imposed by the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals on an Illinois lawyer who electronically signed an appellate brief which was “incoherent and filled with utterly baseless factual assertions.” apparently drafted by his client., Illinois lawyer who electronically signed an “incoherent” appeal brief written by his client is sanctioned by U.S. Seventh Circuit, Law, 2019
- Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert, which will discuss the recent American Bar Association Formal Opinion 487, which provides guidance regarding the requirements of fee divisions in contingency fee matters when the initial lawyer is replaced by a successor lawyer. ABA Formal Opinion 487 is here: https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/images/news/2019/06/FormalOpinion487.pdf, ABA issues Formal Opinion 487 providing guidance regarding fee divisions in contingency cases when a lawyer is replaced, 2019
- Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert, which will discuss the recent suspensions of 3 New York law firm partners for failing to supervise an office manager who stole more than $200,000.00 from the firm’s trust account., Florida Bar Board of Governors approves proposed Bar rule prohibiting misleading law firm information in all lawyer advertisements, Lawyers, 2019
- New York ethics opinion finds that fees paid to Avvo for legal services violate referral, fee splitting ,and advertising Bar rules Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss recent (August 8, 2017) New York Ethics Opinion 1132 which found that lawyers in New York are prohibited from participating in AVVO’s client referral services. This opinion found that the referral services violate the Bar rules since they involve improper “vouching for” (and recommendation of) the lawyer, improper lawyer referral fees, and fee sharing with a non-lawyer. The companion New York Ethics Opinion 1131 (August 8, 2017) sets forth the structures of various web-based services and attempts to explain how those services could comply with the New York Bar Rules. Both New York State Bar Ethics Opinions are here: http://www.nysba.org/EthicsOpinion1132/ and here: http://www.nysba.org/EthicsOpinion1131/NYSBA Ethics Opinion 1132 states that, since Avvo Legal Services provides ratings of lawyers using the service based on various qualifiers such as years in practice, information provided by the lawyers, volunteer bar work and other publicly available information, and offers to find a client “the right” lawyer with a money-back guarantee, there is an implied recommendation as to the lawyer’s “credentials, abilities, competence, character, or other professional qualities”; therefore, the marketing fee is “an improper payment for a recommendation in violation the New York Bar Rules. The opinion also states that since “the Avvo website also extols the benefits of being able to work with highly rated lawyers,” it creates a reasonable impression that it is recommending its top-rated lawyers. “Avvo is giving potential clients the impression that a lawyer with a rating of ‘10’ is ‘superb,’ and is thus a better lawyer for the client’s matter than a lawyer with a lower rating. Avvo is also giving potential clients the impression that Avvo’s eligibility requirements for lawyers who participate in Avvo Legal Services assure that participating lawyers are ‘highly qualified.’” The opinion sates that Avvo Legal Services’ “satisfaction guarantee” also contributes to the impression that Avvo is recommending its lawyers’ services “because it stands behind them to the extent of refunding payment if the client is not satisfied.” According to the opinion, Comment 1 of New York Rule 7.2 prohibits a lead generator not only from stating that it is recommending a lawyer, but also from implying or creating a reasonable impression that it is making such a recommendation. NYSBA Ethics Opinion 1132 concludes: “This opinion does not preclude a lawyer from advertising bona fide professional ratings generated by third parties in advertisements, and we recognize that a lawyer may pay another party (such as a magazine or website) to include those bona fide ratings in the lawyer’s advertisements. But Avvo Legal Services is different. It is not a third party, but rather the very party that will benefit financially if potential clients hire the lawyers rated by Avvo. Avvo markets the lawyers participating in the service offered under the Avvo brand, generates Avvo ratings that it uses in the advertising for the lawyers who participate in Avvo Legal Services, and effectively ‘vouches for’ each participating lawyer's credentials, abilities, and competence by offering a full refund if the client is not satisfied. As noted earlier, Avvo says: ‘We stand behind our services and expect our clients to be 100% satisfied with their experience’” Accordingly, we conclude that lawyers who pay Avvo’s marketing fee are paying for a recommendation, and are thus violating Rule 7.2(a). ”NYSBA Ethics Opinion 1131 sets forth the structures of various web-based services and attempts to explain how those services could potentially comply with the New York Bar Rules. That opinion concludes: “A lawyer may pay a for-profit service for leads to potential clients obtained via a website on which potential clients provide contact information and agree to be contacted by a participating lawyer, as long as (i) the lawyer who contacts the potential client has been selected by transparent and mechanical methods that do not purport to be based on an analysis of the potential client’s legal problem or the qualifications of the selected lawyer to handle that problem; (ii) the service does not explicitly or implicitly recommend any lawyer, and (iii) the website of the service complies with the requirements of Rule 7.1. A lawyer who purchases such a lead to a potential client may ethically telephone that potential client if the potential client has invited the lawyer selected by the service to make contact by telephone.”Bottom line: New York has now joined the list of jurisdictions finding that Avvo’s “marketing fee” taken from fees paid to lawyers using its client generation services violate ethics rules and are impermissible referral fees. This New York ethics opinion (like all ethics opinions) is advisory only; however, it is the most recent finding that the fee charges in AVVO’s plan constitute improper referral fees and fee sharing. Other jurisdictions (such as a pending North Carolina opinion) may also publish ethics opinions in the future. Stay tuned……and be careful out there., New York ethics opinion finds that fees paid to Avvo for legal services violate referral, fee splitting ,and advertising Bar rules, Law, 2017
- Florida lawyer accused of “planning” Allied Veterans scam is reinstated nunc pro tunc after criminal charges were reversed, Lawyers, 2017
- Maine Supreme Court holds that competent expert testimony is required to prove causation in legal malpractice actions, Lawyers, 2017
- Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert blog which will discuss the recent New York State Bar Association Ethics Opinion addressing ethics issues related to a lawyer sending correspondence to opposing counsel and copying the client. The Ethics Opinion is NYSBA Ethics Op. 1076 (Dec. 2015) and the opinion is here: http://www.nysba.org/CustomTemplates/Content.aspx?id=60757, New York State Bar ethics opinion addresses ethics issues when a lawyer copies a client with communications to opposing counsel, 2016
- Potential Florida Bar ethics advisory opinion 17-2 will address lawyer referral fees and private client matching services Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss recent decision by the Florida Bar’s Board of Governors (BOG) to consider a potential ethics advisory opinion to address the ethics issues surrounding lawyer referral fees and private client matching services. The advisory opinion has not been drafted; however, the draft opinion will be identified as Proposed Advisory Opinion 17-2. The Bar review began after a lawyer sent an ethics inquiry to The Florida Bar asking whether lawyers could participate with a private lawyer referral service which planned to charge a different set fee depending upon the type of case referred. The lawyer referred to the system “as a ‘pay-per-lead’ structure. ”The lawyer’s inquiry was referred to the BOG and, at its July 21, 2017 meeting in Miami, the BOG unanimously approved the recommendation of the Board Review Committee on Professional Ethics (BRCPE) that it be directed to prepare an advisory opinion on the inquiry, specifically whether lawyer referral services can charge a fee per referral and impose different fees for different types of cases. The BRCPE has authority to decline drafting an opinion and the BOG could also decide not to issue the opinion if it is drafted. If an ethics advisory opinion is drafted, it will address the ethics issues created when online entities (such as AVVO) rolled out programs which attempt to match potential clients with lawyers and which make different payments depending on the type of case. The opinion would also address the Bar rules related to advertising and referral services. Lawyers and others will be able to comment on the issues before any opinion is drafted and/or approved. The Florida Bar Rules have long prohibited lawyers from sharing fees with private referral services. The Bar’s Standing Committee on Advertising (SCA) also rejected “pay-per-lead” plans on previous appeals and the BOG rejected an appeal from a referral service that proposed a payment of $300.00 to participating lawyers for each referred and accepted case in 2012. Other jurisdictions have published ethics opinions addressing these issues or are in the process of reviewing them. As I reported in a recent Ethics Alert blog, New York Ethics Opinion 1132 (published August 8, 2017) found that New York lawyers are prohibited from participating in AVVO’s client referral services. The opinion found that lawyers who participate in AVVO’s client referral services (and any similar services) would violate the New York Bar rules since they involve AVVO’s improper “vouching” for (recommendation of) the lawyer, improper lawyer referral fees, and improper fee sharing with a non-lawyer. As background, The Florida Bar filed a petition with proposed Bar rule amendments with the Florida Supreme Court in 2015 addressing, inter alia, referral services that offer both legal and medical or other non-legal services. Those proposed rules would have allowed lawyers to participate in those services, as long as clients were informed about potential conflicts, there was no quid pro quo requiring the lawyer to send a referred client for medical or other services offered by the referral agency, and the lawyer’s independent judgment was not affected. The Florida Supreme Court published an opinion on September 24, 2015 declining to implement the rule revisions and instructed the Bar to draft rules that “preclude Florida lawyers from accepting referrals from any lawyer referral service that is not owned or operated by a member of the Bar. ”That opinion is here: 9/24/15 SC Opinion The Florida Bar then filed revised rule amendments designating private entities which match lawyers with potential clients as “qualified providers” and requiring those entities to comply with the Bar rules, including a required review of the advertisements. Participating lawyers would not have been required to carry malpractice insurance. The Florida Supreme Court heard oral argument in April 2017 and then published an order dismissing the petition on May 3, 2017. That order is here: 5/3/17 SC Order. The order stated: “In this case, the Bar proposes amendments to rule 4-7.22 that do not comply with the Court’s direction concerning lawyer referral services that are not owned or operated by a member of the Bar and that seek to expand the scope of the rule to include “matching services” and other similar services not currently regulated by the Bar. The May 3, 2017 Order also stated that the dismissal was without prejudice “to allow the members of this Court to engage in informed discussions with the Bar and those who are in favor or against the proposed regulation of matching and other similar services. The Court lacks sufficient background information on such services and their regulation at this time.”A meeting was held at the June 2017 Bar Annual Convention in Boca Raton to discuss the issues and was attended by Justices, Bar officials, and representatives of private referral services. The Bar’s Notice of the proposed ethics advisory opinion was published in the August 15, 2017 issue of the Florida Bar News. The Bar’s Notice is here: 8/15/17 Notice of Proposed advisory opinion 17-2. According to the Notice: “The Board Review Committee on Professional Ethics will consider adopting a proposed advisory opinion at the direction of The Florida Bar Board of Governors based on an inquiry by a member of The Florida Bar, at a meeting to be held on Thursday, December 7, 2017, from 1-3 p.m. at the Ritz-Carlton on Amelia Island.” and “comments from Florida Bar members are solicited on the issues presented. Comments must contain Proposed Advisory Opinion number 17-2, must clearly state the issues for the committee to consider, may offer suggestions for additional fee arrangements to be addressed by the proposed advisory opinion, and may include a proposed conclusion. Comments should be submitted to Elizabeth Clark Tarbert, Ethics Counsel, The Florida Bar, 651 E. Jefferson Street, Tallahassee 32399-2300, and must be postmarked no later than 30 days from the date of this publication.” Bottom line: If the ethics opinion is drafted and approved, Florida will join the growing list of jurisdictions addressing “marketing fees” taken from fees paid by private online entities to lawyers participating in client generation services. This ethics opinion (like all ethics opinions) would be advisory and for guidance only. Stay tuned and be careful out there., Potential Florida Bar ethics advisory opinion 17-2 will address lawyer referral fees and private client matching services, Law, 2017
- Ohio Supreme Court suspends lawyer who engaged in sexually oriented text messages with a client, 2016
- Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the recent Report of Referee which recommends that former Lee County Judge John Lakin, who was alleged to have improperly accepted tickets to Tampa Bay Rays baseball games, be suspended from practice for 90 days and be placed on probation for one year. The case is The Florida Bar v. John Francis Lakin, SC17-542. The June 25, 2018 Report of the Referee is here: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/4564632-Referee-Report-Lakin.html The Judicial Qualification Commission charged the judge with misconduct in 2016 alleging, inter alia, that he had requested and received Tampa Bay Rays tickets from a law firm in 2015 while presiding over a pending case in which the law firm represented one of the parties. A jury ruled in favor of opposing party; however, the judge subsequently reversed that verdict in favor of the law firm’s client. Five of the tickets that the judge received were given to him the day before he reversed the jury verdict. The judge denied that the receipt of the tickets influenced his actions and later retired from the bench and went into private practice. The Florida Bar filed a Complaint in March 2017 alleging that the lawyer violated Bar Rules related to dishonesty, deceitfulness, misrepresentation and/or fraud. The referee assigned to hear the Bar matter recommended that the former judge’s law license be suspended for 90 days, and that he be placed on supervised probation one year, complete the Bar’s practice and professionalism enhancement program, “speak to new judges” about the circumstances, and pay the Bar’s costs of $5,244.00. Under the Florida Bar rules, the referee’s report will now be reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court, which will render a final disciplinary opinion. The judge and The Florida Bar can file a petition with the Court to review the findings and file briefs. Bottom line: his former judge accepted tickets from lawyers who were representing a party before him on a pending case and, soon after receiving the tickets, made a ruling which favored that law firm’s clients. Even if the tickets did not influence the judge’s decision, the circumstances would certainly seem to create an appearance of impropriety and an arguable violation of the Judicial Canons. The referee has now recommended that the judge be found guilty of Florida Bar Rule violations and suspended from practicing law for 90 days. The Florida Supreme Court will now decide whether the referee’s findings will be upheld., Referee recommends that former Florida judge who accepted Tampa Bay Rays tickets be suspended for 90 days and placed on probation, 2018
- Florida lawyer accused of “planning” Allied Veterans scam is reinstated nunc pro tunc after criminal charges were reversed, Lawyers, 2017
- This article will discuss whether a lawyer could be potentially liable for another lawyer’s legal malpractice (and potential Bar rule violations) by making a referral. The short answer is yes. Of course, under the Florida Bar lawyer disciplinary rules and most, if not all, jurisdictions, it is certainly ethical for a lawyer to refer a case to another lawyer and receive a referral fee; however, there are certain requirements under the rules and the referring lawyer might be held liable for any malpractice by the referral lawyer., Can a referring lawyer be held liable for the referral lawyer’s malpractice?, 2016
- Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the March 21, 2017 opinion of the Maine Supreme Court which held that expert testimony that is not based on supporting facts in the record was insufficient to prove that a lawyer’s alleged negligence caused the plaintiff's injury. In addition, a “corrected affidavit” which contradicts the expert’s clear deposition testimony is insufficient. The case is Brooks v. Lemieux, 2017 ME 55 (Maine Supreme Judicial Court March 21, 2017) and the opinion is here: http://www.courts.maine.gov/opinions_orders/supreme/lawcourt/2017/17me55br.pdf., Maine Supreme Court holds that competent expert testimony is required to prove causation in legal malpractice actions, 2017
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