Lawyers suspended for copying client data, unilaterally notifying clients about new firm

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Two Florida associates who hoped to take their clients with them when they left their personal injury law firm have been suspended from law practice for violating bar rules during that process.

The Florida Supreme Court suspended lawyer Jonathon Charles Avery Blevins for 60 days and lawyer Michael Andrew Adams for 45 days in a pair of orders, Law360 reports.

Both lawyers had worked at Dan Newlin Injury Attorneys in Florida. They formed their firm before leaving the Dan Newlin firm in January 2021. They did not give advance notice of their intent to resign, according to their conditional pleas (here and here) for consent judgment.

The lawyers were accused of making digital copies of confidential client data while at the Dan Newlin firm. They were also accused of disabling a feature in the case management system that allowed the firm to mass email clients.

After leaving the firm, the lawyers contacted clients they hoped to take with them without first approaching the Dan Newlin firm to negotiate a joint letter to the clients, as required by ethics rules, their pleas said. Their letter advised clients that they could remain clients of the Dan Newlin firm, could choose representation by the new firm, or choose new representation by a different firm.

The notice should tell clients about potential liability for fees and costs for legal services already provided and how deposits will be handled, according to the pleas.

Neither Blevins nor Adams had prior disciplinary history. Blevins was admitted to the bar in 2008, and Adams was admitted in 2011.

Adams has also provided “extraordinary community service” to veterans, children and victims of abuse, according to the plea. He is a decorated U.S. Marine Corps veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his service in Iraq. The condition was exacerbated by stress while working at the Dan Newlin firm, according to his plea.

Blevins’ plea said he has provided “substantial community service.”

A lawyer who represented Blevins and Adams, Henry Lee Paul, did not immediately respond to an ABA Journal email and voicemail requesting comment.

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