Social Insecurity — Open-government advocate John Paff got a surprise in December when he asked the Borough of Glassboro for records on payments to two lawyers and received purchase orders containing their Social Security numbers.
Paff sent copies of the documents to the lawyers and suggested, “you may want to take steps to ensure that Glassboro, going forward, does a better job safeguarding your personal information.”
Michael Silvanio, a Woodbury solo, and John Iannelli, a Blackwood solo, both contacted the court. Silvanio says he was assured the disclosure was an oversight and would be corrected. Iannelli says he plans to ask borough solicitor Timothy Scaffidi to see that it doesn’t happen again.
Scaffidi says “it shouldn’t have happened” but it’s the first time, as far as he knows, and will be the last.
Silvanio and Iannelli are hired when Glassboro’s public defender has conflicts. Paff sought the records because he fears towns are handing out conflict defender work to political cronies without public oversight. After learning Glassboro paid $6,800 to multiple attorneys in 2012, he requested records for those paid the most: Silvanio, $2,000 for 10 cases, and Iannelli, $1,800 for nine. He posted the records at http://ogtf.lpcnj.org/2012/2012357s5//CPD.pdf — after scrubbing the SSNs.
Silvanio says Glassboro needs multiple conflict defenders because it is the site of Rowan University and groups of students are sometimes arrested and apply for defenders based on their own income.
Prison Time for Firm Bookkeeper — A federal judge in Trenton on Friday sentenced a former bookkeeper for a Forked River law firm to 21 months in prison for stealing more than half a million dollars from the firm.
U.S. District Judge Mary Cooper also ordered defendant Sharon Wetter, 53, of Forked River, who had pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud, to repay $521,595 to the firm — Dasti, Murphy, McGuckin, Ulaky, Cherkos & Connors — and to serve three years of supervised release.
Wetter had access to the firm’s accounts as the bookkeeper. Between 2004 and 2010, she wrote and mailed checks to herself from the firm’s bank accounts totaling $565,941. She then altered the firm’s electronic ledgers and books to make the checks appear as though they were legitimate business expenses. The money was used to pay off her personal bills, according to a statement by U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman.
Dasti, Murphy is the home to two Republican lawmakers — Assemblyman Gregory McGuckin and Sen. Christopher Connors. The firm had no comment, according to one of its lawyer, Christopher Dasti.
Wetter has repaid $44,046 to the firm. Her lawyer, Hightstown solo Anthony Simonetti, declined to comment on the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Harvey Bartle IV handled the case for the government.
Curb Your Enthusiasm — A nonprofit group that’s criticized Rutgers Law School-Camden for allegedly painting a too-rosy picture of life after graduation is seeking sanctions.
Law School Transparency claims, in a complaint filed with the American Bar Association on Monday, that a 2012 recruiting email to prospective students from Camille Andrews, associate dean of enrollment, contains “misleading and false statements” about graduates’ employment outcomes.
The email used statistics that excluded jobless grads, included nonattorney positions and relied on low response rates, LST claims, calling it an example of “a law school having no accountability for its recruiting practices.” For instance, while the email stated that “many” top students took firm jobs paying “in excess of $130,000,” only one 2011 grad earned $130,000 and none earned more, LST claims. The complaint also criticizes Dean Rayman Solomon — who supported Andrews after LST called for her resignation in May — because he “has never admitted to a problem.”
LST Executive Director Kyle McEntee says the group isn’t seeking specific sanctions but says a censure, fine or other measure could be imposed by the ABA, which accredits law schools.
Andrews deferred comment to spokeswoman Cathy Donovan, who says the school “takes its professional and ethical obligations to prospective, current, and past students seriously.” She adds that the school is confident it will be vindicated. Solomon was out Friday and did not return a call.
Billing by the Tweet? — Now that the Internet has displaced the Yellow Pages, many lawyers use social media to try to build their businesses, but few know whether the outreach is effective, legal consultants say. Avvo Ignite, a new service offered by the legal directory and forum Avvo, aims to change that by letting lawyers see how many inquiries originate from their presences on and offline — and how many yield new clients.
Without monitoring what works and what doesn’t, lawyers struggle to make the most of the new outlets available to them online, says Sachin Bhatia, Avvo’s vice president of products, who researched lawyers’ social media habits before launching the service in November. Many lawyers do not have a sound system for logging their prospects, or they get few leads, he says.
The Avvo Ignite Suite is supposed to help attorneys by documenting how each prospect found the firm and then facilitating communication and payment to bring clients on board. Another edition, Avvo Ignite Starter, creates basic websites and monthly activity reports and can be accessed on mobile devices.
Most who have signed up so far are lawyers at small to midsize firms and solo practitioners, Bhatia says.
Social media can help neutralize the reputational advantage enjoyed by Big Law. “It costs a fortune to launch an ad campaign in The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal, but not on social media,” says law firm consultant Peter Zeughauser. “Social media levels the playing field for smaller firms.”
— By Mary Pat Gallagher, Michael Booth, David Gialanella and Julia Love (The Recorder)