Thursday, November 19, 2015

Matthew Chappell, Please Read The Rules Of Professional Conduct

"Young" lawyers are an interesting bunch. Bright eyed, full of hopes and dreams, and sometimes one or two have a thought that scares me to death as it evidences their lack of understanding that this is a profession with a code of ethics, not a lead-generating scheme to make money (despite what the marketers want us to believe).

Speaking of schemes, meet Matthew Chappell of Texas. Matthew is a "young lawyer," but not a young man. He's 42. He's a "young" lawyer because he's been practicing less than 5 years. Actually, less than 3.

Seems Matthew, understandably, is a bit impatient. It happens. Sometimes those pesky requirements of  "5 years" minimum as a practicing lawyer gets in the way of being on certain committees, or being appointed to other positions, or in Matthew's case, being eligible to receive work from Fidelity Investments.

Not wanting to wait the extra few years, Matthew sent this email around to his Texas brethren:

I’m going down the list of Board Certified Texas Attorneys to find a solo attorney with 5 or more years of experience to make this offer to. I have 2 years experience, graduating from STCL in 2013.
I have family friends at Fidelity Investments who promise me AT LEAST one new client a week (Estate Planning) if I were able to get on their Preferred Attorney’s List; however, I have to wait a three more stupid years, as Fidelity now requires 5 years of experience to be placed on this list (which wasn’t always the case).
I need to find someone with 5 years who my friends can nominate; the business would be filtered through that someone, but wouldn’t be intrusive AT ALL(I will set up a separate email acct or Google phone number for these clients).
There is absolutely ZERO liability or accountability or responsibility on your part. In exchange, I’m willing to either offer you a share of the clientele or to subsidize your malpractice insurance to bring it up to 2 million/per incident (usually around $3600/yr), which, in addition to the 5 years, is another Fidelity req to be on the list. I already have this type of policy myself.
Let me know if you’d be interested, and I’ll put you in touch with my Fidelity contact who can explain further. Like I said, I’m going down the Board Specialization list of names one by one and sending pretty much the same email. First come, first served.
Thanks, and all best,
Matthew Chappell
Attorney At Law
723 Main Street
Suite 700-07
Houston, Texas 77002
Mark Bennett, not a "young" lawyer, thought it would be beneficial to reach out to Chappell by email:

Not no, but hell no.
 Is there any chance I can, old dog to young pup, persuade you to stop now and not pursue this fraudulent course of action?
 Please let me know before noon.

Now this type of interaction is something "old" lawyers frequently discuss. "Should I reach out to him?" "Is he going to take it well or tell me to screw off?" Most "older" lawyers  just want to say "hey, I don't think that's such a good idea," as Bennett did here.

But Chappell argued with Bennett and refused to retract his unethical proposal. 

So Bennett decided to write about it:

As Bennett correctly analyzed:

So, lawyers. Let’s imagine what happens if you sign on as Matthew Chappell’s nominee, the strawman to whom Fidelity will refer cases, which will then be funneled to Chappell with no involvement from you.
It looks a lot like you’re participating in a fraud against Fidelity. Maybe Chappell’s “Fidelity contact” can explain this in some way that makes it non-fraudulent. Maybe it is fraudulent and Fidelity never finds out. Maybe Fidelity doesn’t care. But suppose that “your” clients start complaining to Fidelity about “your” service. How long do you think it’s going to take them to figure out what your arrangement with Chappell was?
Chappell, not interested in a lesson, doubled down:
And now you’ve committed a handful of torts, including libel by taking my words out of context and tortious interference with business.
Enjoy the lawsuit I’m in the process of filing against you, psycho, arrogant, inferiority complex-ridden moron.
Matthew Chappell
Attorney At Law
723 Main Street
Suite 700-07
Houston, Texas 77002
Now I don't practice in Texas, but I checked, and yep, I was right, they have this Rule that we have in Florida:
Rule 4.01. Truthfulness in Statements to Others 
In the course of representing a client a lawyer shall not knowingly: (a) make a false statement of material fact or law to a third person; or (b) fail to disclose a material fact to a third person when disclosure is necessary to avoid making the lawyer a party to a criminal act or knowingly assisting a fraudulent act perpetrated by a client.
I dunno. Sounds kinda problematic for a lawyer who wants to do what Chappell wants to do.
Chappell of course hasn't filed his lawsuit, but he did send Bennett a certified piece of garbage which has already received a response from Bennett's counsel, Marc Randazza (both here).
Chappell's letter states in part:
Accordingly, please compose a written apology to Mr. Chappell in which you agree to, first, issue a clarification and retraction on your "blogsite", and second, remove the blog that refers to Mr. Chappell and/or any other media associated with Mr. Chappell's name and/or law practice. AGAIN, YOU HAVE TEN DAYS, SIR. 
I'm sure Mark Bennett isn't looking for a calendar to count when those TEN DAYS SIR start, but while we all wait for the failure of a lawsuit that will do nothing but again bring Matthew Chappell's stupid scheme to the forefront of his young legal career, I also have some advice.
Matthew, your proposal is unethical and possibly criminal. You are attempting to use your license in a way that I trust the State Bar, and maybe a prosecutor or two would find objectionable. Don't do it. Don't defend it. You were wrong, and your strategy here of trying to resolve your hurt feelings won't work. When you have been a lawyer 5 years, you can try to get work with Fidelity. Maybe they'll have forgotten about this by then.
Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of The Practice: Brutal Truths About Lawyers And Lawyering. Share/Save/Bookmark

No comments: