Houston Intellectual Property Law Association Presentation

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1 Houston Intellectual Property Law Association Presentation Recent Changes in the Grievance Procedure and How They Will Affect Your Law Practice SPEAKER: Robert S. Bob Bennett The Bennett Law Firm, P.C. 515 Louisiana, Suite 200 Houston, Texas (713) & Protecting the Public Snapshot Total Disciplinary Sanctions (299) Disbarments (24) Resignations in Lieu of Discipline (24) Suspensions (121) Public Reprimands (28) Private Reprimands (69)

2 Thomas Watkins, Commission for Lawyer Discipline Member Estimates that every new attorney licensed after 1999 will have at least two disciplinary complaints filed against them during their career. Grievances Filed Compared With Attorney Growth Under Current Rules Year Lawyers Grievances 81,601 7,308 80,094 6,954 77,934 7,494 77,056 7,780

3 As an attorney, Santos is presumed to be familiar with the provisions in the Rules of Disciplinary Procedure SANTOS v. COMMISSION FOR LAWYERS DISCIPLINE, 2004 WL (Tex. App. Houston [14th Dist.] May 20, 2004). State Bar of Texas Attorney Disciplinary System Classification Just Cause Accept. Reject or Negotiate Grievance Grievance Complaint Investigatory Hearing Dismissed Inquiry BODA (Complainant Appeals) BODA (Respondent Appeals) Dismissed No just cause Evidentiary Hearing Board of Disciplinary Appeals District Court Court of Appeals Texas Supreme Court

4 OCDC finds no just cause Summary disposition Panel Hearing** State Bar of Texas Attorney Disciplinary System Evidentiary Hearing Board of Disciplinary Appeals Grievance Grievance Complaint Notice Letter OCDC Investigation* OCDC finds Just cause District Court Court of Appeals Dismissed Inquiry BODA (Complainant Appeals) Referred to voluntary mediation BODA (Respondent Appeals) Investigatory Hearing Dismissed no just cause * Respondent may or may not have an opportunity to discuss the case with the OCDC Texas Supreme Court ** Respondent & complainant NOT present Dismissed Mandatory Referral to voluntary mediation Summary of Evidentiary Hearing Private reprimand only available if Evidentiary Hearing is chosen Rocket Docket, compared to civil trial Limited discovery Private unless public reprimand Prosecution oriented

5 Civil Trial Rules of Civil Procedure & Evidence apply Option for jury trial No private reprimand available More expensive Top 10 Rule Violations

6 Advertising & Solicitation 1% Lawyer Advertising is regulated by Part VII of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. Regulations are implemented and enforced by the Advertising Review Committee and the Advertising Review Department of the State Bar of Texas. Purpose: To protect the public from lawyer advertising that is false, misleading or deceptive. Tribunals 2% 3.01: Meritorious Claims and Contentions 3.02: Minimizing the Burdens and Delays of Litigation 3.03: Candor Towards the Tribunal 3.04: Fairness in Adjudicatory Proceedings 3.05: Maintaining Impartiality of Tribunal 3.06: Maintaining Integrity of Judicial System

7 Non-Client Relationships 3% 4.01: Truthfulness in Statements to Others 4.02: Communication with One Represented by Counsel 4.03: Dealing with Unrepresentative Person 4.04: Respect for Rights of Third Persons Conflicts 3% 1.06: Conflict of Interest: General Rule 1.07: Conflict of Interest: Intermediary 1.08: Conflict of Interest: Prohibited Transaction 1.09: Conflict of Interest: Former Client

8 Fees 6% 1.04: Fees Illegal or Unconscionable Fee Contingency Fees Division of a Fee Refundable vs. Non-Refundable Retainers It s from my attorney.

9 Communication 8% 1.03: Communication A lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and properly comply with reasonable requests for information A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation. Integrity 9% 8.01: Bar Admission, Reinstatement, and Disciplinary Matters 8.02: Judicial and Legal Officers 8.03: Reporting Professional Misconduct 8.04: Misconduct 8.05: Jurisdiction

10 Safekeeping Property 11% 1.14 Trust Accounts Declining or Terminating Representation 11% 1.15(d): Upon termination of representation, a lawyer shall take steps to the extent reasonably practicable to protect a client s interests, such as giving reasonable notice to the client, allowing time for employment of other counsel, surrendering papers and property to which the client is entitled and refunding any advance payment of fee that has not been earned.

11 Neglect 46% 1.01: Competent and Diligent Representation (b) In representing a client, a lawyer shall not: (1) Neglect a legal matter entrusted to the lawyer; or (2) Frequently fail to carry out completely the obligations that the lawyer owes to a client or clients. (c) As used in this Rule neglect signifies inattentiveness involving a conscious disregard for the responsibilities owed to a client or clients. Helpful Hints 1. Reporting actionable/grievable conduct: or 2. Ethics Opinion Ethics Hotline: or No written opinion but can send letter of confirmation as to what you were told. 3. Client Security Fund through office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel Grievance must be filed Maureen Ray, Brochure

12 Helpful Hints Cont. 4. Referral Option handled by CAAP when case dismissed. 5. Client Attorney Assistance Program (CAAP) In CAAP contacted 44,000 Resolution: 1,031 w/o formal action Major Complaint: Neglect & Communication 6. Advertising Review Committee 7. Texas Lawyers Assistance Program 8. Commission for Lawyer Discipline Annual Report If you want my advice, any man who represents himself, or engages me to represent him, has a fool for a lawyer.

13 Marketing What is AVVO? A. Attorney Rating Site B. Provides more information than Martindale-Hubbell

14 More Customers Turning to Web to Find Customers: $5.8 billion spent on Web Advertising Up 18.2% from 2007 Important Other Sites A. Linkedin.com 23 million users B. Myspace.com 115 million users C. Facebook.com 115 million users D. JDSupra.com E. Texasbar.affinitycircles.com F. Lawdragon.com

15 Google or Yahoo Use key words: a. Texas Legal Ethics b. Texas Legal Ethics Defense c. Texas Grievance Defense

16 Bennett Law Firm Web Presence AVVO Rating 10.0 Superb

17 Locate on AVVO Bennett Profile

18 Firm Experience Firm Recognition

19 Client Ratings Peer Endorsements

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