It's official: Jeffrey Phillips, the flashy frontman for the Phillips and Associates personal injury law firm, will not be allowed to practice law for six months thanks to a decision handed down today by the Arizona State Supreme Court.
Following a lengthy investigation last year by the Arizona State Bar Association, it was determined that Phillips failed to supervise his employees well enough to comply with Arizona Rules of Professional Conduct.
Basically, it was found that some of Phillips' clients handed over cash deposits before ever speaking with a qualified attorney. Rather, the investigation determined, clients often were misled into ponying up deposits by office salesmen working on commission.
After the investigation, the Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court handed down a
recommendation to suspend Phillips and his "associate" Robert Arentz for six months and one day, followed by two years of probation.
Arentz ultimately served a 60-day suspension and has since been reinstated.
Although the court reduced his suspension by only one day, it's good news for Phillips.
If the suspension had held at six months and one day, Phillips would have had to re-apply with the state bar to resume practice. By dropping the extra day, Phillips will not have to re-apply.
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Last year, Phillips told New Times he was disappointed but not surprised by the recommendation from the Disciplinary Commission and that the initial complaint, filed with the State Bar Association back in 2002, was the result of some dissatisfied clients.
"In a two-or-three-year period, our firm handled about 33,000 cases, and only 21 people had a problem with how we represented them," Phillips says. "You just don't win every case, and people get upset about that."
Phillips says some of the 21 clients even wanted their money back, and in most cases, his firm was happy to hand it over.
Phillips and Arentz could have received a recommendation for disbarment but the commission felt that the six-month suspensions would be more appropriate.