SiteMap | Search | Press Release Login | Attorney Portal

The Consumer Assistance Program 2002-2005: Four Years of Mediation, Information and Referral

By Beverly P. Sharpe, Counsel

During the first four years of its operation, the Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) has handled 17,174 new inquiries from legal consumers. The number of new contacts peaked in 2004 for a yearly total of 5007 and 4685 new contacts for 2005. Currently, the Consumer Assistance Program handles an average of 21 new contacts from potential complainants per business day.

The Board established the Consumer Assistance Program in 2002 to handle problems between attorneys and complainants, which do not rise to the level of serious ethical violations. The program is designed to expedite the receipt and handling of minor ethical complaints through speedy informal mediation, explanation of misunderstood issues or referral to appropriate agencies.

It is of interest to note that the areas of practice which have generated the largest number of CAP contacts, in descending order are: Criminal, Domestic, General Civil, Personal Injury and Bankruptcy. The types of assistance given by CAP in descending order of frequency are: Advising General Information; Mediation of Communication; Mediation to receive Explanation; Mediation to achieve Action re : Case; and Mediation of Fee or Expense Questions. Referrals are to Fee Dispute Committees, Lawyer Referral Services or Pro Bono institutions.

A probable effect of CAP assistance over the four years of its existence is seen in the decline in the number of Complaint files opened by Disciplinary Counsel, even while the number of inquires to CAP increased. Disciplinary files opened have decreased in number from 1397 to 982 in the period 2001 through 2005. This is a decline of 29.7%. Significantly, in three categories of filed Complaints: Neglect, Relationship with Client, and Fees, (which are areas of much CAP assistance), there were declines also. These numbers decreased by 43% (Neglect), 15% (Relationship with Client) and 63% (Fees) over the four years that CAP has been assisting legal consumers.

The importance of this decrease in Complaints handled by Disciplinary Counsel, is that serious ethical violations can be handled more efficiently and thoroughly for the protection of the public. Also, less serious complaints stay out of the disciplinary process and can be speedily mediated to the benefit of both the legal consumer and the lawyer. Legal consumers and their attorneys have a resource to aid in the resolution of their misunderstandings. The public has access to information and referral, which, it is hoped, will increase their confidence in the fairness and accessibility of our justice system.


Consumer Assistance Program Cases By Year

Cases By Type 2002 2003 2004 2005 Total
Bankruptcy 165 162 141 144 612
Collections 75 64 76 69 284
Criminial 1117 1167 1199 1280 4763
Domestic 872 732 769 660 3033
Estates 151 130 140 151 572
General Civil 294 292 231 171 988
Other 515 863 82 95 1555
Packet Request 0 0 1985 1776 3761
Personal Injury 229 197 180 190 796
Real Estate 118 61 94 65 338
Social Security 39 21 22 20 102
Worker's Compensation 109 109 88 64 370
Total Cases 3684 3798 5007 4685 17174
Action Taken
Advise Contact Attorney 836 320 137 153 1446
Advise General Information 2916 4546 6190 5793 19445
Advise Legal Advice / Second Opinion 145 312 265 339 1061
Advise Non- Ethics Questions 49 39 15 10 113
Discuss Attorney Termination 115 100 68 63 346
Mediate Communication 1099 1236 959 1131 4425
Mediate Explanation/Other 0 1263 1286 982 3531
Mediate Fee/Expense Questions 171 528 400 361 1460
Mediate File or Document Request 293 454 256 389 1392
Mediate Request for Action re: Case 889 642 544 591 2666
Request for Information 0 0 17 188 205
Total Actions 6513 9440 10137 10000 36090
Referrals
Referral Board of Judicial Conduct 110 92 114 130 446
Referral Disciplinary Counsel 366 487 430 473 1756
Referral District Attorney 12 8 17 20 57
Referral Fee Dispute Committee 337 270 226 231 1064
Referral Lawyer Fund for Client Protection 24 20 13 3 60
Referral Lawyer Referral Service 317 240 190 214 961
Referral Other 165 179 148 183 675
Referral Pro Bono / Legal Aid 59 28 34 30 151
Referral TLAP 12 8 4 7 31
Total Referrals 1402 1332 1176 1291 5201


Disciplinary Complaint Analysis 2001 - 2005

NATURE OF COMPLAINTS: 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 Total
TRUST VIOLATIONS: Recordkeeping, Embezzlement,
Conversion, Commingling
102 83 93 62 91 431
CONFLICT OF INTEREST: Personal, As Public Official,
Appearance of Impropriety, Business with Clients, Multiple Representation
67 62 58 65 54 306
NEGLECT: Preparation, Failure to Communicate, File, Appear or Perform 579 401 318 348 330 1976
MISREPRESENTATION OR FRAUD: False Documents, Attestation,
Statements, Failure
99 71 62 83 96 411
RELATIONSHIP WITH CLIENT: Limiting Liability, Discussing Confidence,
Improper Withdrawal, Not Releasing Documents, Extortion, Harassment,
Failure to Protect Client's Interest
357 391 305 264 302 1619
FEES: Overreaching, Excessive, Splitting Fee with Non-Lawyer,
Improper Division, Failure to Refund, Improper Fee
73 55 34 24 27 213
IMPROPER COMMUNICATIONS: Advertising, Solicitation,
Trial Publicity, Contact with Witnesses, Officials, Jury, Opposing Party
100 80 79 59 55 373
CRIMINAL CONVICTION: Felony, Misdemeanor, Other 4 2 2 3 3 14
PERSONAL BEHAVIOR: Competence, Mental Disability,
Aiding Unauthorized Practice, Ineffective Assistance
16 26 32 18 23 115
OTHER: Reciprocal Discipline, not available 0 0 0 0 1 1
TOTAL FILES OPENED: 1397 1171 983 926 982 5459
FRIVOLOUS MATTERS ADMINISTRATIVELY DISMISSED
PURSUANT TO RULE 9(7.2)(c):
399 336 315 321 286 1657
TOTAL MATTERS RECEIVED: 1796 1507 1298 1247 1268 7116

Inside Board Notes
Disciplinary Actions - By William W. "Tripp" hunt, III
Ethics Opinion Spotlight - By Laura Chastain
Ethics Workshop - By Sandy Garrett

Privacy Statement | Disclaimer
© 2004 - 2012 The Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee
Home Information for Consumers Information for Attorneys Contact Us