New LawyerVolume 5, Number 2
September 2007
Table of Contents
Past Issues

Lawyers Behaving Badly: A Continuing Column, Unfortunately

This installment of Lawyers Behaving Badly is about a lawyer’s misstep made worse by unprofessional and unhelpful staff behavior.

It was calendar call. The plaintiff’s case, which was five years old, was first for trial. The plaintiff’s lawyer was nowhere to be seen.

 ACT I
Scene: Calendar Call.

Judge: “Case number 123. Is anybody here for case number 123. I see defense counsel. Where is plaintiff?”

Defense Counsel: “Afternoon, judge. I’m not sure. He has notice of this.”

(The court begins to schedule other matters for trial.)

Judge: “Is the lawyer for case number 123 here yet? Let’s get him on the phone. I can’t imagine missing calendar call.”

Plaintiff’s lawfirm: “Hello.”

“Yes, is Mr. Lawyer there, please?”

“Who is this?”

“This is the judge who Mr. Lawyer is supposed to be in front of on calendar call 30 minutes ago today on case number 123.”

“Oh, okay, hold on a second.” (Several minutes elapse.)

ACT II
A new person takes the call. “Hello?”

“Where is Mr. Lawyer?”

“Who is this?”

“This is a Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge wondering why Mr. Lawyer is not in front of me for calendar call for case number 123.”

“Oh, okay, hold on a second.” (Several minutes elapse.)

“Hello. Yes, he’s in a deposition”

“He’s in a deposition! His client’s case is scheduled for calendar call today? Get him out of his deposition.”

“Um, okay, well I’m not sure. Hold on a second.” (Several minutes elapse.)

The call is terminated, and the judge calls back.

ACT III
“Hello?”

“Yeah, hi. This is the judge, again. Could somebody please tell me where Mr. Lawyer is and why he is not at calendar call today and why he is not on the phone with me? I have a courtroom full of lawyers, and we are all wondering where Mr. Lawyer is to schedule his case.”

“Who is this?

“This is the judge.”

“Oh, okay, how do you spell your name?”

“JUDGE. J–U–D–G–E. Judge.”

“Ahh, okay, hold on a second.” (Several minutes elapse.)

“Hi sir, he’s in a deposition.”

“Get him.”

“Well, okay. I’m not sure. Hold on a second.” (Several minutes elapse.)

ACT IV
“Mr. Lawyer” finally took the judge’s call after almost twenty-five minutes from the time of the judge’s initial call. The judge expressed his disappointment and advised Mr. Lawyer of the date and time he should appear—preferably with a lawyer—to show cause why he should not be held in contempt for not showing for a calendar call about which he was properly noticed.

MORAL
“For many lawyers, a good staff is the most critical component of producing excellent legal services.” Debra Moss Curtis, Supervising Your Lawyers and Staff: Avoiding Serious Ramifications, 76 Fla. B.J. 74 (2002). Under the Florida Bar’s Rules of Professional Conduct and many other states as well, a lawyer with direct supervisory authority over a nonlawyer must make reasonable efforts to ensure that the nonlawyer’s conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer. (Rules Reg. The Florida Bar 4-5.3(b)(2) (2007).) In certain circumstances, the rules also hold a lawyer responsible for the nonlawyer’s conduct that would be in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct if engaged in by a lawyer. ( Id. at 4-5.3(b)(3) (2007).) The Florida Bar also addresses ethical issues concerning “Legal Assistants and Nonlawyer Employees” at http://www.floridabar.org/tfb/TFBETOpin.nsf/EthicsIndex?OpenForm. Where professionalism-related issues are concerned, however, common sense and courtesy have not been codified.

The End.

Timothy M. Ravich is a trial lawyer in Miami, Florida, and president-elect of the Dade County Bar Association, Florida’s largest and oldest voluntary bar association. Submit your comments to Timothy M. Ravich at with the subject line “Lawyers Behaving Badly.”

Note: this article was previously published in the July 2007 issue of the Dade County Bar Association Bulletin. ©2007 Dade County Bar Association. Reprinted by permission.

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