We see dozens of legal malpractice claims each year. Some involve missed deadlines, others reflect poor business practices and others are more sinister; theft of client monies for example. And then there is the case in Washington D.C. of a lawyer who can’t even get “the basics of practicing law right.” A District of Columbia Board of Professional Responsibility committee recently recommended Sherlock Grigsby be disbarred for a wide variety of offenses. His story is worth telling.
In Washington D.C., the Court of Appeals is responsible for investigating attorney misconduct. Recently a conduct committee appointed by the court heard four different complaints against Grigsby. Ultimately in recommending that Grigsby lose his license to practice law, the committee dealt with a staggering number of charges (often with multiple counts):
- Lack of competency
- Failure to Represent a client with appropriate skill
- Failure to represent a client zealously and diligently
- Not acting with reasonable promptness
- Not keeping clients reasonably informed about their case
- Not properly explaining matters to clients
- Failing to provide legal fee terms in writing
- Engaging in a conflict of interest
- Failing to protect the client’s interests
- Practicing law in a jurisdiction where not licensed
- Failing to comply with court orders
- Conduct interfering with the administration of justice
- Intentional failure to seek the client’s lawful objectives
- Misappropriation of client funds
- Charging unreasonable fees
- Failing to return unearned fees upon the termination of representation
- Disobeying the rules of a tribunal
- Making false statements in a disciplinary matter
- Conduct involving “dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation”
In other words, the committee said Grigsby simply couldn’t even get “the basics of practicing law right.” We think their conclusion was a bit charitable. Looking at this case from the outside, it appears as if Grigsby was accused of violating almost every professional conduct rule on the books! That is no small feat.
After a hearing, the committee found that Grigsby committed all but three of the allegations. (On many of the counts there were multiple allegations meaning his list of charges was much greater than that shown above.)
In a 124-page opinion, the court’s conduct committee outlined problem after problem with Grigsby conduct. Opposing counsel, former clients, a former FBI agent employed by the disciplinary committee and judges all found his conduct or competency lacking.
Often when a lawyer is accused of incompetence or lacking appropriate skills, counsel for the disciplinary committee will introduce expert testimony to show the standard of skill and care generally afforded to clients by other lawyers. It is hard to show that a lawyer lacked competence without showing what the minimum skill level should be.
In this case, Grigsby’s skills were so poor that no expert testimony was offered. In the words of the committee, “A Hearing Committee… may find a violation of the standard of care without expert testimony when an attorney’s “conduct is so obviously lacking that expert testimony showing what other lawyers generally would do is unnecessary.”
Unfortunately, Grigsby’s misconduct probably had serious effects on his clients. We know that in a divorce case, Grigsby’s client was precluded from introducing evidence at a hearing because it had not been properly turned over during the discovery period of the case.
Ultimately, the disciplinary committee found that the failure to produce discovery was Grigsby’s fault and not that of his client.
A conduct committee can sanction a lawyer but generally can’t award damages and can’t reopen other cases. That means Grisby’s former client’s remedy is limited to filing a malpractice lawsuit.
The Board of Professional Responsibility recommended Grigsby be disbarred. Grigsby hired an attorney to represent him and unsuccessfully tried to suggest that an “admonishment” would be punishment enough.
Unfortunately, the court can only suspend or disbar Grigsby. As noted above, they don’t have the power to make a client whole. But Grigsby’s former clients can bring legal malpractice claims in the hopes of being awarded monetary damages. We don’t know at this writing if Grigsby even has malpractice insurance to cover any claims. (Given his apparent of diligence, we wouldn’t be surprised if he let his policy lapse or failed to pay premiums.)
The principal mission of a state bar disciplinary systems is to protect clients and the judicial system. Deterring future misconduct is also an important purpose of the system. Legal malpractice lawyers step in when a client has been harmed. Our mission is to seek redress for clients who have lost money, their rights or even their freedom because of misconduct.
If you are the victim of “shoddy” lawyering, you may have a claim for legal malpractice. Claims should be brought as soon as possible as often insurance policy limits or assets to pay claims are limited. Remember, reporting a bad lawyer to the bar may get him or her in trouble but it won’t get back your hard earned money or help you collect damages. If you think you have been harmed, call us immediately.
Finding an Experienced Legal Malpractice Lawyer
Few lawyers are willing to sue other lawyers, especially if they practice in the same court or city. We are often called by potential clients after they find no one local to take their case. Even if they can find someone willing, chances are pretty good that unless they are in a major metropolitan lawyer, the lawyer willing to take the case has little experience in these highly specialized cases.
Attorney Brian Mahany and his network of legal malpractice lawyers all have experience successfully suing lawyers. Because we are a national boutique firm, we don’t have to worry about seeing the lawyers we sue on a daily basis.
If you are reading this page, chances are good that another lawyer has already let you down. This may be your final chance to get justice. Make sure that this time you have a lawyer willing to fight, a lawyer with extensive trial experience and one that understands legal malpractice.
To find out if you have a case, contact us today. The consultation is without obligation and completely confidential. To speak with an experienced malpractice lawyer today, contact us online by email at [hidden email] or by phone (877) 858-8018. You can also visit our attorney malpractice information page.
*Please note that we only consider cases with an actual provable loss of at least $2 million. We regret that we do not have the resources to take smaller cases.