Attorney’s AVVO Comments Give Rise to Disciplinary Complaint

Illinois employment lawyer, Betty Tsamis, is under fire for allegedly violating the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct in her response to a former client’s negative AVVO review. According to the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, the former client accused Ms. Tsamis of accepting a $1,500.00 fee when she “knew full well” that an Illinois law would preclude the client from succeeding on his claim for unemployment benefits. AVVO removed the former client’s original post, after the former client refused to take it down at Ms. Tsamis’ request.  Within days of the removal of the original post, the former client posted a similar accusation again on AVVO.

Ms. Tsamis responded to the second post by commenting on AVVO, in part, “I dislike it very much when my clients lose, but I cannot invent positive facts for clients when they are not there. I feel badly for him, but his own actions in beating up a female co-worker are what caused the consequences he is now so upset about.” Because of this response to the former client–who is clearly identifiable on AVVO as his first name and last initial are listed—The disciplinary complaint alleges that Tsamis iviolated Rule 1.6(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct by revealing information relating to her representation of the former client without the former client’s informed consent. Tsamis also faces allegations of “using means in representing a client that have no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden a third person, in violation of Rule 4.4 of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct” and acting in a manner prejudicial to the administration of justice.

According to the disciplinary complaint filed against Tsamis, Rinehart had sought Tsamis’ legal advice after he was fired from his job as a flight attendant for allegedly assaulting a co-worker during a flight. Tsamis claims that the client withheld facts surrounding the incident and that it was not until she reviewed his employee record that she was able to determine the weakness of his claim. Despite her advising the client that his claim was not likely to succeed, Tsamis asserts that Rinehart chose to proceed with the claim.

Attorneys representing Tsamis believe that Tsamis was justified in responding and should not be held to have violated the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct. What do you think?

Click here to read the disciplinary complaint and here to read more about this case.

1 Comment

  1. Avvo’s permitting un-screened “client reviews” is problematic (disclosure: someone who was never a client at all, and never spoke to any attorney at my firm, posted an unfavorable “client review” of my firm on AVVO. ) That they allowed the post to appear a second time is equally problematic.

    Having said that, it also looks like the attorney probably should have confined her response to “This client hired us to pursue a claim; the client’s claim as unsuccessful.” Anything else was risking trouble.

    That the client was identifiable was, however, again AVVO’s problem.

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