An article discussing the defendants in a major criminal case in the Northeast noted that the attorney for one of the principal defendants had been since suspended from the practice of law in Massachusetts* for three years, due to the fact that he had a felony conviction for Conspiracy to Possess cocaine, with intent to Distribute, in the State of Florida, and had served several years in Federal Prison.
What the article did not tell you is that the attorney was not a member of the New Jersey Bar, but was actively advising clients in that state, and holding himself out on the Internet as a lawyer there. The story does charge that the lawyer had maintained an attorney trust account in New Jersey, which is clearly improper.
Clients should always institute due diligence on any attorney or law firm that they plan on retaining. Though the vast majority of lawyers and law firms can, and do, properly assist you with your legal needs, a very small number of bad actors can:
(1) Take your funds out of their trust accounts, and spend or otherwise misappropriate them.
(2) Unethically share your confidences and secrets with others, for financial compensation.
(3) Deliver your privileged information to law enforcement agents, to whom they owe a debt, due to an arrest, a grant of immunity, or some other from of cooperation that they were forced into, due to criminal misconduct they were guilty of. You do not want to be indicted with information furnished by your own lawyer.
(4) Favor your adversaries in a legal settlement, by misrepresenting to you the strengths and weaknesses of your position.
Therefore, it is humbly suggested that you:
(A) Check out your lawyer's license status, including disciplinary history, with the state bar association.
(B) Check his personal litigation history - is he being foreclosed, or sued for malpractice; does he have a handful of Federal Tax Liens, or judgments filed against him ? Those make him unsuitable.
(C) Are there any negative articles in the local media ?
(D) Was he ever arrested, but not yet tried or convicted ?
Always reduce your risks by a pre-engagement check of any and all professionals that you retain, with particular attention to your new lawyer; not knowing negative information could prove to be very expensive, embarrassing or even expose you to criminal charges.
*In Re: Michael W. Burnbaum, Case No.: BD-2011-121 (Mass. 2012) Attorney suspended from the practice of law for three years.