The Oregonian recently reported on a story involving an attorney who allegedly bilked over forty clients out of over a million dollars. The Oregon State Bar maintains a Client Security Fund that allows compensation for clients dealing with this kind of theft. However, the claims from this one attorney have pushed the claims payments to six times the average payout over a year. The attorney has since resigned, and is now facing criminal charges.
These are kinds of stories are disturbing on many levels. First, the legal profession suffers from a bad reputation. Some of it is earned, but much of it is not. More disturbing is the fact that this attorney was successful, and was well liked by his colleagues. The article doesn’t really chronicle any warning signs or red flags, but focuses on the shocking scale of the misappropriation of funds. If you type this attorney's name into a search engine, you will see results showing a high ethical rating, an Oregon State Bar Journal article featuring this lawyer, and even a well produced You Tube video introducing the firm.
How can a consumer protect herself from this kind of risk? Nothing is foolproof, but it is always a good idea to go to the Oregon State Bar website to see if the attorney has ever been sanctioned by the State Bar. Contrary to the reader comments following the news article, the disciplinary staff at the Bar is not the proverbial fox watching the hen house. Asking friends, family, or other trusted professionals for recommendations is also helpful. Finally, attorney rating sites like www.avvo.com provide great information about an attorney’s background and experience.
Hiring a lawyer is no different than hiring a good plumber, carpenter, or any other professional. You have to do your homework.
We handle injury and disability claims in Oregon and Washington, and we feel we do good by our clients. However, you should check us out. If you have a different kind of case, and are not sure where to turn, call us at 503-325-8600. We can help you find the right lawyer for the job.