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Lawyers are always Lawyers – Even while “collecting debts”

Even In Business “Lawyers” are “Lawyers”!

Look Out Lawyers – Lies During “Debt Collection” Trigger Ethical Concerns!

I was recently asked if Florida debt collection lawyers could be disciplined for making misstatements while not representing clients (as in collecting debts they purchased).  This was particularly interesting to me because I know a couple of “debt collection” law firms in Florida that collect on debt they “own”.  If lawyers are always lawyers, then it seems that any false remarks, promises, threats, etc. could subject them to discipline.  Similarly, if attorneys are being collected against, if they make a promise to pay and don’t, it seems that could also bring about ethical considerations. I remember learning in law school and while studying for the MPRE that lawyers, while representing clients, have a duty to opposing counsel to not make any misstatements of law, fact, etc.  While researching this issue, I found the following Preamble to the Rules of Professional Conduct.

A lawyer is a representative of clients, an officer of the legal system, and a public citizen having special responsibility for the quality of justice.
As a representative of clients, a lawyer performs various functions. As an adviser, a lawyer provides a client with an informed understanding of the client’s legal rights and obligations and explains their practical implications. As an advocate, a lawyer zealously asserts the client’s position under the rules of the adversary system. As a negotiator, a lawyer seeks a result advantageous to the client but consistent with requirements of honest dealing with others. As an intermediary between clients, a lawyer seeks to reconcile their interests as an adviser and, to a limited extent, as a spokesperson for each client. A lawyer acts as an evaluator by examining a client’s legal affairs and reporting about them to the client or to others.
In all professional functions a lawyer should be competent, prompt, and diligent. A lawyer should maintain communication with a client concerning the representation. A lawyer should keep in confidence information relating to representation of a client except so far as disclosure is required or permitted by the Rules of Professional Conduct or by law.
A lawyer’s conduct should conform to the requirements of the law, both in professional service to clients and in the lawyer’s business and personal affairs. A lawyer should use the law’s procedures only for legitimate purposes and not to harass or intimidate others. A lawyer should demonstrate respect for the legal system and for those who serve it, including judges, other lawyers, and public officials. While it is a lawyer’s duty, when necessary, to challenge the rectitude of official action, it is also a lawyer’s duty to uphold legal process.
As a public citizen, a lawyer should seek improvement of the law, the administration of justice, and the quality of service rendered by the legal profession. As a member of a learned profession, a lawyer should cultivate knowledge of the law beyond its use for clients, employ that knowledge in reform of the law, and work to strengthen legal education. A lawyer should be mindful of deficiencies in the administration of justice and of the fact that the poor, and sometimes persons who are not poor, cannot afford adequate legal assistance, and should therefore devote professional time and civic influence in their behalf. A lawyer should aid the legal profession in pursuing these objectives and should help the bar regulate itself in the public interest.…….
……..Thus, every lawyer is responsible for observance of the Rules of Professional Conduct. A lawyer should also aid in securing their observance by other lawyers. Neglect of these responsibilities compromises the independence of the profession and the public interest that it serves.” (Emphasis Added)  SOURCE

So, in closing, the answer is yes.  A Florida lawyer can be disciplined for lying to an attorney even if it doesn’t involve a “client” or a “matter”.  With that said, I am not licensed in Florida and, as such, I told the individual that asked me the question to consult with a Florida Ethics Attorney.  Since lawyers are “Lawyers” under ethics rules even when they are not representing a client, I caution collection law firms, even those that are collecting on debts that they own, from violating the FDCPA.  It seems that many violations of the FDCPA would necessarily violate the Model Rules.  However, consumer lawyers, keep this in mind – it is almost certainly unethical to threaten ethical ethical complaints to gain an advantage in a civil matter.  So, either file the Complaint or don’t mention it.  Otherwise, the ethics issue could turn on you!

One Commment

  1. […] alleged behavior.  Lets see how that plays out with Roosen Varchetti & Oliver since Attorneys, even while acting as debt collectors, are subject to legal ethics.  Regardless of how quickly this ends, one thing is certain.  Debt […]

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