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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

NO. BD-1997-057

IN RE: PATRICIA M. DICKSON

S.J.C. Order of Term Suspension entered by Justice Cordy on August 9, 2001.1

SUMMARY2

After being admitted to practice in 1990, the respondent practiced in association with other lawyers and from 1995 as a solo practitioner. Beginning around the end of 1994 and continuing until she discontinued the practice of law in 1997, the respondent failed to communicate with clients and failed to perform tasks which she undertook on their behalf:

1. The respondent was retained at the end of 1993 to obtain an adoption order, but failed to take adequate steps to do so. She failed to respond to inquiries from her clients. In 1997, the clients discharged her and demanded the return of their file, but the respondent did not return the file until summoned to appear before Bar Counsel.

2. In February, 1995, the respondent undertook to draft a health-care proxy, but failed to do so or to respond to inquiries. After her client complained to Bar Counsel in 1996 and brought a small-claims action against her, she returned his fee.

3. The respondent failed to take any substantial action in furtherance of a legal malpractice case she was retained to prosecute in 1994. She failed to respond to inquiries from her clients over the next two years. They complained to Bar Counsel in December, 1996.

4. In 1995, the respondent was retained to present claims for personal injuries suffered in an automobile accident and to oppose a complaint for modification of a domestic relations order. She failed to take any effective action in either case and falsely told her client that she had filed an answer to the complaint for modification. In August, 1996, the client discharged her and retained a new attorney who forwarded the client’s instruction to turn over the file. The respondent failed to answer the new attorney’s inquiries or to deliver the file.

5. In 1996, the respondent was retained to draft a health care proxy and a trust to facilitate a gift to minors. She failed to take action to accomplish either task. After falsely telling her client that the health-care proxy was in the mail, she failed to respond to any further inquiries. Although the client demanded the return of the fee which she had paid, the respondent did not return it.

6. After conducting a residential closing in July, 1996, the respondent failed to supply the buyers with copies of the closing documents. Despite many requests from the buyers and their attorney over the next several months, she failed to provide the documents.

7. In 1994, an attorney referred two collection cases to the respondent and advanced the filing fees. She failed to file the complaints or to take any other action to collect the funds. She failed to respond to the attorney’s inquiries over the next three years.

The respondent’s neglect of her clients’ affairs violated DR 6-101(A)(3) and 7-101(A)(1), (2), and (3); her failure to deliver the closing documents on demand was also a violation of DR 9-102(B)(4).

The respondent’s failure to return files upon discharge violated DR 2-110(A)(4).

The respondent’s misrepresentations to her clients violated DR 1-102(A)(4) and (6).

The respondent’s failure to return the unearned fee violated DR 2-110(A)(3).

The respondent’s failure to return the filing fees advanced to her violated DR 9-102(B)(4).

After the clients complained to the Board of Bar Overseers, the respondent failed to respond to Bar Counsel’s inquiries. Two subpoenas had to be issued to compel her attendance, and, in November, 1997, her continuing failure to cooperate with Bar Counsel resulted in her administrative suspension from practice pursuant to S.J.C. Rule 4:01, § 3. Even after the suspension, the respondent continued to fail to cooperate. She also failed to file the affidavit of compliance and other material required by S.J.C. Rule 4:01, § 17.

In 1997, the respondent discontinued the practice of law and moved out of state. After Bar Counsel obtained her address and filed a petition for discipline, she agreed to a two-year suspension from practice. The Board accept the parties’ recommendation, and the court imposed a two-year suspension.

1 The complete Order of the Court is available by contacting the Clerk of the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County.

2 Compiled by the Board of Bar Overseers based on the record before the Court.



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