Law Practice Management
Temp. Suspensions Sought for Leaders of Ariz. Consumer Law Firm
Posted Apr 20, 2009 12:15 PM CDT
By Martha Neil
Over the last three years, Phillips & Associates has represented more than 30,000 clients. So it isn't amazing there there have been multiple client complaints during the same period, according to the lawyers in charge of the Arizona consumer law firm.
But state bar regulators see the situation differently. In a 126-page report last month, a hearing officer upheld nine of 22 complaints against the firm by the State Bar of Arizona, and called for temporary suspensions for the two lawyers in charge of the high-volume operation, reports the Arizona Republic.
Much of the criticism by hearing officer Martin Lieberman of the two centers on what he describes as an initial client intake process that is handled by nonlawyers and the large caseloads of subordinate attorneys actually handling most of the firm's bankruptcy, criminal defense and personal injury cases.
"The findings really go to the structure of the intake process they have at that firm and how that system is really incentivized to get as many people in as possible without any particular safeguards in place," acting chief state bar counsel Maret Vesella tells the newspaper.
Lieberman's recommendation must be approved by both the bar's disciplinary commission and the state supreme court before it becomes effective. Meanwhile, the firm says the two lawyers concerned, founding partner Jeffrey Phillips and his associate, Robert Arentz, have done nothing to justify the suspensions.
The two attorneys are appealing Lieberman's call for Arentz to be suspended for 60 days and Phillips to be suspended for six months and one day, The six-months-and-one-day suspension would require Phillips to reapply for bar membership, the Republic reports.
In a written statement on behalf of the law firm, Phillips says Lieberman's report contains factual and legal errors, and calls the recommended suspensions "grossly disproportionate" to the alleged legal ethics violations.
ABAJournal.com: "Lawyers Claim Law Firm Fired Them for Ethical Objections"