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NJ Firm Bows Head re Unadmitted Atty

Posted Jul 26, 2007 7:03 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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In a rare sanction of a law firm that names no individual partner names, the New Jersey Supreme Court has reprimanded Newark-based Sills Cummis Epstein & Gross for allowing an associate not admitted to the state bar to work on transactional matters for seven years.

There are conflicting accounts of how that happened. The associate, Steven Jackman, who no longer works at the firm, says he was told by at least one partner not to worry about his lack of a New Jersey license, reports New York Lawyer (reg. req.), reprinting a New Jersey Law Journal story. However, partners don't remember it that way.

Jackman was admitted in Massachusetts throughout the time he was at Sills Cummis. But working on mergers and acquisitions matters for the firm from 1991 to 1998 amounted to the unauthorized practice of law even though he only did transactional work, the New Jersey Supreme Court held years ago. In re Jackman, 165 N.J. 580, 761 A.2d 1103 (2000). It reprimanded Sills Cummis earlier this month, and the firm agreed, in a consent order that was made public this week, that it had erred by not properly supervising associates and promised to monitor their bar admissions more closely in the future.

Jackman's unadmitted status came to light after he left the firm, applied to take the New Jersey bar exam in 1999 and passed. He had previously applied to take the February 1992 state bar, but says he was asked by the firm at the last minute not to sit for it because he was needed at work.

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