Legal Ethics

Lawyer Gets Public Reprimand for Gifting Client with $442.32 'Recovery,' Then Delaying Payment

G. Turner Perrow Jr. presumably meant well. But the South Carolina practitioner spent a year updating an unidentified client about the progress of his effort to help her collect money from a former employer for unpaid vacation time, even though he determined early on that she wasn’t entitled to any such payment and hence didn’t attempt to collect the money.

Then, shortly before Christmas of 2010, he wrote her, suggesting that she accept a “settlement offer” of $592.32, which represented not quite 50 hours at $12 per hour. Although Perrow had spent more than two hours on the case, he said he would reduce his fee to $150 so the client would net $442.32, recounts the South Carolina Supreme Court in its written opinion yesterday.

The client did promptly accept the proposal. But Perrow didn’t get back in touch with her until February, almost two months later, at which time he paid her the $442.32 from his general account. He explained to attorney disciplinary authorities that he gave his own money to the client because he knew she needed it.

His handling of the matter merited a public reprimand, the supreme court determined, noting that it violated attorney ethics rules concerning keeping a client informed and responding promptly to client inquiries and providing candid advice. It also, the court said, conflicted with a lawyer’s duty not to engage in conduct involving “dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation” or that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.

Hat tip: Legal Profession Blog

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