Stanley I. Lippmann (WSBA No. 29661, admitted 1999), of Seattle, was disbarred, effective October 24, 2008, by order of the Washington State Supreme Court following approval of a stipulation. This discipline is based on conduct in a number of matters involving misuse of client funds and trust-account irregularities.
Between 2005 and January 2008, Mr. Lippmann engaged in the following conduct:
• Deposited $31,350 advance fees from a number of clients in different matters into his general business account and personal bank account rather than into an IOLTA account, and used substantial portions of those client fees for his own use before fully earning them;
• Disbursed $1,100 from his trust account before waiting for a client’s two $550 checks to clear the banking process;
• Disbursed advance fees to himself without first giving his clients reasonable notice of his intent to do so;
• Deposited $5,000 of a client’s advance fees in one matter into his general business account, rather than into an IOLTA account, and used substantial portions of those advance fees for his own use before earning them;
• Used $4,000 of a client’s advance fees for his own use before earning them in a second matter;
• Obtained an unsecured interest-free loan of $10,000 from a second client with no due date, on terms that were neither fair nor reasonable to the client, without giving the client written notice or reasonable opportunity to seek the advice of independent counsel, and without obtaining informed consent from the client;
• Obtained an unsecured interest-free loan of $2,000 from a client with no written documentation memorializing the loan, on terms neither fair nor reasonable nor fully disclosed in writing to the client, without giving the client written notice or reasonable opportunity to seek the advice of independent counsel and without obtaining informed consent from the client; and
• Charged and attempted to collect from a client $42,383.50 in legal fees on a contingent-fee case, after having withdrawn from the case, when the fee agreement made no provision for fees if representation terminated prior to resolution of the case.
Mr. Lippmann’s conduct violated RPC 1.5(a), prohibiting a lawyer from making an agreement for, charging, or collecting an unreasonable fee or an unreasonable amount for expenses; RPC 1.8(a), prohibiting a lawyer from entering into a business transaction with a client or knowingly acquiring an ownership, possessory, security, or other pecuniary interest adverse to a client unless the transaction and terms on which the lawyer acquires the interest are fair and reasonable to the client, fully disclosed and transmitted in writing in a manner that can be reasonably understood by the client, the client is advised in writing of the desirability of seeking and is given a reasonable opportunity to seek the advice of independent legal counsel on the transaction, and the client gives informed consent, in a writing signed by the client, to the essential terms of the transaction and the lawyer’s role in the transaction, including whether the lawyer is representing the client in the transaction; RPC 1.15A(b), prohibiting a lawyer from using, converting, borrowing, or pledging client or third-person property for the lawyer’s own use; RPC 1.15A(c), requiring a lawyer to hold property of clients and third persons separate from the lawyer’s own property, which includes depositing and holding in a trust account funds subject to this Rule and identifying, labeling, and appropriately safeguarding any property of clients or third persons other than funds; RPC 1.15(h)(3), allowing a lawyer to withdraw funds to pay client costs and to withdraw earned fees only after giving reasonable notice to the client of the intent to do so, through a billing statement or other document; RPC 1.15A(h)(7), prohibiting a lawyer from disbursing funds from a trust account until deposits have cleared the banking process and been collected, unless the lawyer and the bank have a written agreement by which the lawyer personally guarantees all disbursements from the account without recourse to the trust account; and RPC 8.4(a), prohibiting a lawyer from violating or attempting to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct.
Leslie C. Allen represented the Bar Association. Mr. Lippmann represented himself.