All practicing attorneys in New Jersey are subject to the state's Rules of Professional Conduct, which impose high standards of behavior when it comes to their behavior toward the courts, other attorneys and clients. Sometimes these rules are easy to understand and straightforward to apply, such as the fiduciary duty to clients and the responsibility not to misuse client funds. On other occasions, though, application of the rules can involve complicated fact patterns that trigger multiple potential violations of those rules.
Applying the RPC can be difficult if you do not know what they are and how an attorney may have violated them; you may believe that your attorney has committed legal malpractice but be unaware of how it has happened or what rules govern the possible violation. This is why, when you are convinced that your attorney has failed to meet his or her professional obligations toward you or your legal matter, you should consult with a law firm that practices in legal malpractice law and knows what to look for in an attorney's conduct that can serve as grounds for an ethics complaint, a legal malpractice complaint, or both.
For example, consider what has taken place in connection with two attorneys who split from their former law firm and who are now each facing multiple ethics-related charges. The problems have their source in two class-action lawsuits that the attorneys were involved with. The alleged violations of the ethics rules include:
- putting the attorney's own interests ahead of the client's interest;
- failing to treat other persons involved in the legal process with courtesy and consideration;
- filing a lawsuit against a former client;
- accusing another attorney of perjury, allegedly without evidence to support the accusation
The alleged ethics rules breaches also led to a legal malpractice lawsuit against one of the attorneys, which was eventually settled out of court.
Source: New Jersey Law Journal, "Mazie Slater Partners Face Ethics Charges," Michael Booth, August 21, 2015