Drinking my first cup of coffee this morning and catching the early news before work, the local NBC affiliate ran another commercial featuring local PI lawyer Jeffrey Phillips of “Phillips & Associates.”
Phillips was disciplined last December 16, 2010 In the Matter of Jeffrey Phillips, No. SB-10-0036-D. And the Arizona Supreme Court Order stated that, “During the suspension, however, Phillips’s name may not be used in firm advertisements, letterhead, or other communications.”(5) All that said, more than 30 days later, he’s still on television.
Last month, at “Christmas Schadenfreude as local lawyers cheer prolific TV advertising lawyer’s suspension,” he and his incessant commercials were bid a now premature 6-month ‘adieu.’ But to paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports were “greatly exaggerated.”
“Groundhog Day” is a week away. Punxsutawney Phil may not see his shadow but Arizona television viewers will apparently keep seeing the ubiquitous “Phillips & Associates” commercials. Same reel, different day.
The applicable rule is Rule 72. Notice to Clients, Adverse Parties and Other Counsel. And specifically, Ariz.R.Sup.Ct. 72(d) states: “(d) Effective Date of Order; Pending Matters. Judgments imposing suspension or disbarment shall be effective thirty (30) days after entry, unless the presiding disciplinary judge or the court specifies an earlier date. Judgments and orders imposing other sanctions or transfer to disability inactive status are effective immediately upon entry.
“Respondent, after entry of a judgment of disbarment or suspension, shall not engage in the practice of law, except that during the period between entry and the effective date of the order, respondent may complete on behalf of any client all matters that were pending on the entry date. Respondent shall refund any part of any fees paid in advance which have not been earned.”
Same name, different guy.
Jeffrey Phillips’ 6-month suspension was due to various infractions, which I won’t go into here other than to say the Dissent had it right. The really inquisitive, though, can read the 33-page Order at the link above.
It’s important, though, to reiterate that there’s more than one lawyer named “Phillips” at the firm. The other lawyer is R. Glenn Phillips, admitted to practice in Arizona on September 10, 2010.
And since he’s also a name partner of the firm, that must mean the television advertisements go on. So next time, when another ad runs for “Phillips & Associates,” consumers need to ensure they’re thinking of the right guy.
Indeed, at its “Recent Reports” web page, the Arizona Judicial Branch likewise admonishes that, “There are over 16,000 active attorneys in good standing with the State Bar of Arizona. Many attorneys share the same name. All reports should be read carefully for names and Bar numbers to ascertain the correct identity of the attorney involved.”
“Who’s on First?”
Thankfully, there isn’t further likelihood of confusion over having 2 lawyers with the same last name at one firm, with one suspended and the other not.
Say, for example, that instead of musicians, the Five Guys Named Moe had been lawyers at a firm called “Moe, Moe, Moe, Moe and Moe”?
Think what would happen if one of those “Moes” ever got disciplined. How discombobulating would that be? It’d be harder to keep track of than “Who’s on First?”
“(5) See ERs 5.5(b)(2); 7.1; 7.5(a) and (d); see also State Bar of Ariz. Comm. on Rules of Prof’l Conduct, Formal Op. 02-07 (2002) (concluding that a law firm should not continue to use attorney’s name in the firm name, letterhead, business cards, or stationary while the attorney is on disability inactive status, and noting that “a suspended partner’s name must be dropped in all communications with the public”); Wash. State Bar Ass’n, Formal Op. 196 (2000) (prohibiting use of suspended lawyer’s name in firm name or business communications).”