Clarkston lawyer J. Kim Welch has received a 180-day suspension from the practice of law, effective July 3, 2014, the State of Michigan Attorney Discipline Board reports.
Based on the stipulation of the parties, Attorney Discipline Board Tri-County Hearing Panel #66 found that Welch violated the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct regarding competence, scope of representation, diligence, communication, fees, confidentiality of information, safekeeping property, and declining or terminating representation. The panel further found that Welch violated the rules regarding expediting litigation, candor toward the tribunal, and responsibilities regarding non-lawyer assistants.
Specifically, Welch entered a plea of no contest to allegations that he handled a client's legal matter without preparation adequate in the circumstances; neglected five different clients' legal matters; and failed to seek the lawful objectives of his clients through reasonably available means. He also pled no contest to allegations that he counseled a client to engage in conduct that he knew was illegal or fraudulent; failed to act with reasonable diligence in representing four clients; failed to keep three clients reasonably informed about the status of their legal matters; failed to explain seven matters to the extent necessary to permit clients to make informed decisions; collected an excessive or illegal fee from five clients and, failed to communicate the basis or rate of his fee to two clients.
Welch further pled no contest to allegations that he knowingly revealed a confidence or secret of a client; failed to exercise reasonable care to prevent employees, associates, and others from disclosing confidences or secrets of a client; failed to hold client property in connection with three representations in a client trust account; failed to keep property of a client or third person in connection with the representation separate from his own property; failed to deposit legal fees and costs that had been paid in advance in three matters in a client trust account; and, upon termination of four representations, failed to refund the advance payment of fee that had not been earned.
In addition, Welch pled no contest to allegations that he failed to make reasonable efforts to expedite litigation consistent with the interests of a client; knowingly made a false statement of material fact; knowingly disobeyed an obligation under the rules of a tribunal in two matters; failed to make reasonable efforts to ensure that his non-lawyer assistant's conduct was compatible with his own professional obligations as a lawyer; made a knowing misrepresentation of facts or circumstances surrounding three requests for investigation; and, failed to fully and fairly disclose all the facts and circumstances pertaining to the alleged misconduct in three matters.
The panel ordered that Welch be suspended from the practice of law in Michigan for 180 days, and directed him to pay costs of $1,482.18.