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Lawyer reprimanded for enforcing associate’s separation agreement

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A Clark County attorney was reprimanded Tuesday by the Indiana Supreme Court over terms of a separation agreement he enforced against an associate who left the firm.

“The Court concludes that Respondent violated Indiana Professional Conduct Rule 5.6(a) by making an employment agreement that restricted the rights of a lawyer to practice after termination of the employment relationship,” reads the per curiam opinion in In the Matter of: Karl N. Truman, 10S00-1401-DI-55. “For Respondent's professional misconduct, the Court imposes a public reprimand.”

According to the court, the agreement “provided that only Respondent could notify clients that Associate was leaving, prohibited Associate from soliciting and notifying clients that he was leaving, and prohibited Associate from soliciting and contacting clients after he left. The Separation Agreement also included provisions for dividing fees if Associate left the firm that were structured to create a strong financial disincentive to prevent Associate from continuing to represent clients he had represented while employed by the firm.”

The associate left the firm after six years in 2012, and the opinion notes that he contacted clients, informed them of his departure, and told them they could choose to be represented by him or Truman. Later, Truman filed a complaint with the Disciplinary Commission against his former associate. That matter was settled through mediation.

“Immediately after the Commission began its investigation in this matter, Respondent discontinued his use of the Separation Agreement, and he has not enforced any similar provisions against any other former associates,” the opinion notes.

Parties stipulated that Truman also violated Rule 1.4(b), failure to explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit clients to make informed decisions regarding representation.

In a footnote, the court explained, “Without addressing the exact parameters of this rule, the Court accepts the parties’ stipulation that Respondent violated this rule for the purposes of resolving this case.”
 

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  2. Indianapolis Bar Association President John Trimble and I are on the same page, but it is a very large page with plenty of room for others to join us. As my final Res Gestae article will express in more detail in a few days, the Great Recession hastened a fundamental and permanent sea change for the global legal service profession. Every state bar is facing the same existential questions that thrust the medical profession into national healthcare reform debates. The bench, bar, and law schools must comprehensively reconsider how we define the practice of law and what it means to access justice. If the three principals of the legal service profession do not recast the vision of their roles and responsibilities soon, the marketplace will dictate those roles and responsibilities without regard for the public interests that the legal profession professes to serve.

  3. I have met some highly placed bureaucrats who vehemently disagree, Mr. Smith. This is not your father's time in America. Some ideas are just too politically incorrect too allow spoken, says those who watch over us for the good of their concept of order.

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  5. Baer filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals Seventh Circuit on April 30 2015. When will this be decided? How many more appeals does this guy have? Unbelievable this is dragging on like this.

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