What’s In A Name? Lending Name to Out of State Attorney Results in Suspension

An Order was recently entered by the Supreme Court of New Jersey, suspending an attorney from the practice of law for a period of three months as a direct consequence of his allowing the use of his name and law license by a California attorney seeking to practice in New Jersey.

 

The attorney acknowledged to the Office of Attorney Ethics that his partnership with the California firm was a ‘legal fiction’ created in order to allow a California attorney to open and operate a law firm in New Jersey.

 

As a result of this violation, he was found guilty of violating Rules of Professional Conduct 1.15(d) (failure to keep appropriate financial records and controls), 7.1(a)(1) and 7.5(d) (name of firm contained New Jersey attorney’s name, despite the fact that he had no role in any of the firm’s business), 8.4(c) (allowing the firm to use New Jersey attorney’s signature stamp on correspondence with clients and opposing counsel, thereby intentionally misrepresenting his affiliation with the firm), and 5.3(a) (failing to make reasonable efforts to ensure that the conduct of non-lawyer staff complied with the professional obligations of the lawyer, which resulted in the misappropriation of client funds).

 

In reaching its decision to affirm the suspension, the Supreme Court considered a number of mitigating factors including the fact that the attorney was a “relatively young and inexperienced attorney who was likely easily controlled” by the California attorney, the attorney did not make misrepresentations to a judge, and he had no history of discipline. In addition to the suspension, the Supreme Court further required the attorney to reimburse the Disciplinary Oversight Committee for administrative costs and actual expenses incurred in the prosecution of the matter.

 

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