Legal Ethics

Lawyer's response to client's bad Avvo review leads to disciplinary complaint

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An Illinois employment lawyer is accused of revealing confidential information about a former client when the lawyer responded online to a negative review on Avvo.

Lawyer Betty Tsamis posted a response after her ex-client claimed Tsamis accepted a $1,500 fee even though she “knew full well that a law in Illinois would prevent me from obtaining unemployment benefits,” according to the disciplinary complaint by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. The Legal Profession Blog noted the complaint.

The former client had been fired from a job as a flight attendant based on allegations he assaulted a colleague during a flight. Tsamis wrote that the client did not reveal to her all the facts of the situation that led to his firing, and when she reviewed his personnel file, she advised him he would likely lose, the complaint says. Yet the client opted to proceed, Tsamis wrote.

“I dislike it very much when my clients lose, but I cannot invent positive facts for clients when they are not there. I feel badly for him, but his own actions in beating up a female co-worker are what caused the consequences he is now so upset about,” Tsamis allegedly wrote.

Before posting, Tsamis had asked the client to remove the review, but he refused unless she refunded his fee, the complaint says. Avvo took down the review, but the client posted a new, albeit shorter review with the fee allegation—and that’s when Tsamis responded online.

Tsamis’ posted statement was designed to intimidate and embarrass the former client, and to keep him from posting additional information about her, the complaint alleges.

The client is identified as Richard R. in the current Avvo review. Tsamis’ response no longer includes the claim that the client had beaten a co-worker. “I dislike it very much when my clients lose but can assure prospective clients that I do not misrepresent outcomes in any case,” Tsamis now says.

Tsamis is represented by Chicago lawyer Kathryne Hayes of Collins, Bargione & Vuckovich, who was in court and unavailable for comment. Name partner George Collins tells the ABA Journal he thinks the client was not identified by last name on the Avvo website when Tsamis responded to his criticism.

Collins believes Tsamis was entitled under the ethics regulations to break the attorney-client privilege to defend herself against the client’s accusation. “The public feels entitled to slander a lawyer,” he said, “and they don’t realize they’ve blown their privilege when they do.”

“In this case I think Ms. Tsamis had the right to vigorously defend herself,” Collins said. “We intend to defend the case aggressively.”

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