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Ethics 101: This, Folks, is Why We Don't Diddle Our Clients

By William Peacock, Esq. | Last updated on

Somewhere around page 11, we lost count of how many clients, former clients, and almost clients Mr. Randy J. Fuerst slept with. The opinion recounts a legion of divorcees that paraded through his office, and his bed, though in the end, despite the ethics opinion repeatedly stating that his adulterous activity with former or almost clients, he's only on the hook for violations with one client: MRW, since she was the only romantic partner with which he maintained a significant personal and professional relationship simultaneously.

Fuerst's frolics led to a 30 day fully-stayed suspension, a reduced order of costs (since the disciplinary board failed to prove the vast majority of the alleged ethics violations), and an appeals case about intentional infliction of emotional distress via adultery. Plus, a minor reputation hit, since his story is making the rounds on the legal blogs. (H/T to the Legal Profession Blog especially.)

This is Your Sex Life, in an Ethics Opinion

Since we're not big on counting, let's bullet point the list:

  • CCL: Obtained other counsel before the relationship commenced.
  • VADL: Relationship commenced after the settlement was finalized, though a "ministerial" correction to a document was made during the relationship;
  • MRW: "[A]dulterous sexual relationship lasted for about four months and occurred while Mr. Fuerst was representing MRW ... "
  • KGH: Dinner and a hug. She says he went in for the kiss, which was refused. He disagrees. Either way, representation continued thereafter.
  • MLDG: "Shortly after the divorce petition was filed, MLDG informed Mr. Fuerst that she was attracted to him and wished to pursue a dating relationship." A partner in his firm took over the case. Husband found out, which "further complicated the difficult divorce case." Husband was later found in contempt for violation a restraining order and a permanent injunction barred him from contacting either Fuerst or MLDG.
  • BDW: Consultations, but no official retainer, before the adulterous relationship began. She retained other counsel.
  • SKS: Consultation, no relationship, but SKS alleged that Fuerst recommended that she "should get a divorce and a dildo," asked her out to dinner, and discussed her breast feeding.
  • BMP: Post-consultation, at his house, "they embraced and spoke about her attraction to him." Husband showed up. Outside counsel was retained for the divorce. Husband sued Fuerst for IIED (the appeals case).

Sidebar: We're sticking with initials wherever possible, even though the ethics opinion bounces back-and-forth between full names, surnames, and initials.

Appropriately, one of the clients that he did not sleep with, and whose testimony the committee found to be not credible, was named Chastity. Another interesting note: he often gave these women a book and his cell phone number during the consultation, which led to casual texting, a social relationship, and often times, even more. Seriously, what was this book?

One other very important note: all of the women, except the ones whose testimony was found to lack credibility by the committee, repeatedly stated that the relationships were of their own volition and that they were not taken advantage of.

Who is This Guy?

You're probably picturing some archetype of manhood. Well, we'll let you be the judge, though Mr. Fuerst does have a bit of a Roger Sterling from Mad Men vibe to him. But, the best line from that profile of Acadiana's Best Lawyers?

"I often take work home as I feel obligated to meet my clients' needs."


Why Not Sleep With Non-Clients?

We're not ones to judge folks on their extra-curricular activities. In only one case did this amorous attorney sleep with a client, and Mr. Fuerst was disciplined for doing so, as the hearing committee felt that his actions created a conflict of interest with a then-current client, and that his conduct was prejudicial to the administration of justice.

But even in the cases where there was no ethics violation, there were consequences, including an appeals case, and many "difficult" divorces, some likely exacerbated by the adulterous conduct. A better rule of thumb, rather than referring out cases whenever one wants to sleep with a potential client, would be to wait until the divorce is finalized.

There'd be far fewer restraining orders and appeals cases that way.

Where's the line in entering into social or romantic relationships with clients? Is there a waiting period, or simply a "no papers" rule? Tweet us your thoughts @FindLawLP.

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