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Lawyer Accepts Reprimands for Unethical Conduct

Connecticut attorney Frank DiScala, formerly with DiScala, DiScala and Papscy in Norwalk, received two reprimands (by agreement) to appear on his professional record from the Statewide Grievance Committee, one for forging signatures on legal documents and the other for “not advising a client in writing to consult with independent counsel prior to accepting the settlement.”

The grievance complaint, filed by firm associate Michael Colombo, contained multiple allegations of unethical conduct by Mr. DiScala, including that he directed his paralegal Lisa Snow to cover up portions of a document so that a client would not be aware of her right to sue for malpractice and to seek independent counsel.

The second violation had to do with a client named Beatriz Martinez, whose personal injury suit DiScala could no longer litigate because he had failed to file it before the statute of limitations ran out on her claim, Colombo wrote.

According to Colombo, DiScala had Snow cover up the top portion of a form while Martinez signed it. The form was a waiver of her right to seek counsel in a claim against DiScala.

Martinez was additionally deceived when DiScala told her he had in fact settled her case and gave her $15,000 out of the firm’s expense account, money which she believed DiScala would be reimbursed for, the grievance states.

See The Hour.

I like to think that if an attorney asked me to knowingly help him deprive a client of her legal rights that I would quit on the spot. However, in this economy, I also sympathize with any legal support staff professional who is directed by his or her supervising attorney to engage in wrongdoing. Not knowing the facts regarding Ms. Snow’s involvement, whether she was browbeaten, “job-scared”, ignorant or a willing participant, I can only feel sorry that she had to work for a lawyer who at best, exercised poor judgment, and at worst, deceived clients.

Assuming that you were the paralegal in this situation and also assuming that your household was dependent on your income, what would you have done?

4 Responses to Lawyer Accepts Reprimands for Unethical Conduct

  1. Honestly? I would tell the attorney that I wasn’t comfortable at all with it and remind him of the ethical implications. Most likely, the attorney would tell me to do it anyway, so I would document that I had informed if of the ethics violations, and then I would just do it.

    And then I would start floating my resume.

  2. Looking for another job is a given as I honestly don’t think there is a gray area here. No one should EVER agree to do anything unethical just because you need the income. If the paralegal is the family’s breadwinner, then the long term career would far outweigh a short-term firing, and attorneys carry insurance to compensate staff for wrongful termination.

    I would first refuse to do what he/she asked explaining that my career, as well as his/hers, was on the line. If threatened with my job for insubordination, I would go then to his/her attorney supervisor, billing or Managing Partner, and report what I was asked to do. If working for a solo, I would gather copies of all documentation related to his/her instructions and misconduct, and take a lunch break at, or make a lunch break phone call to, the state bar.

    Agreeing to be party to misconduct will follow you for the rest of your career, especially if it all had to be recounted in court. Personally, I could not hold my head up with the knowledge that all I did was look for another job.

  3. Speaking as someone who has been one paycheck away from the repo man (and who has worked for an unethical solo practitioner at that time – he was who I was thinking of when I wrote my comment), I do what I have to do to keep a roof over my head and food in my family’s mouths.

    I’ve never had to do anything unethical – after he told me to do it anyway (in this case, notarize a document that I hadn’t witnessed being signed), I said again, “No. I signed an oath.” He slammed the door into his office. The next day, he started turning my job into a purely administrative function. It was awful, and since then I’ve been much more careful about who I work for.

Contact Info:

Lynne J. DeVenny, N.C. State Bar Certified Paralegal

Owner & Virtual Paralegal, DeVenny Paralegal Services

Email: lynne.devenny[at]gmail.com

Telephone: 336-582-0003

Inquiries are welcome, with free quotes available.

Meet Lynne:

Lynne DeVenny is a North Carolina State Bar Certified Paralegal with over 27 years of experience working on complex litigation cases, including medical malpractice, personal injury, workers’ compensation, and Social Security disability.

Disclosure: I am not a lawyer and cannot provide legal representation or legal advice.

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