A Salem attorney will have his license suspended, effective June 1, after the Virginia State Bar cited him for violating professional standards governing bookkeeping, communications with clients and other requirements.
Greg Phillips, an attorney for more than 26 years, agreed to accept a 10-month suspension, according to a disposition filed in Roanoke County Circuit Court.
He’ll be required to take a continuing education course in law office management and must submit quarterly reports from a certified accountant affirming that his records are in order.
His books could be subject to random inspections, and he’ll be on probation for five years once his suspension is lifted.
The disciplinary action comes after five clients whom Phillips represented between 2014 and 2016 made complaints against him.
People are also reading…
The grievances, as outlined in the disciplinary agreement, touch on many of the same issues. Bar investigators found Phillips had been depositing advance fees paid by clients directly into his operating account instead of holding it in a trust and withdrawing the funds as they were earned.
Officials concluded Phillips wasn’t complying with required procedure. He was unable to produce client subsidiary ledgers and, in one case, told the bar that he kept track of his earned fees by making “mental notes” after the work was done.
Four of the clients who complained about Phillips said they had difficulty getting in touch with him.
In one case, a client in the process of getting divorced who was seeking a protective order against her husband said Phillips failed to show up for the hearing.
Another client facing criminal prosecution alleged Phillips didn’t advise him that the charges had been amended.
Three of the people who filed complaints said that, after terminating Phillips’ services, they had trouble getting in touch with him to get their case files transferred or to arrange a refund on advance fees paid.
Another client who initially complained that Phillips hadn’t refunded unearned fees later said the matter had been settled and asked that his complaint be withdrawn. The bar still continued with a review of Phillips’s records.
Phillips didn’t return a call seeking comment Friday. His suspension agreement was presented to a three-judge panel last week and signed by the panel’s chief judge Monday, according to court documents.
Phillips was previously publicly reprimanded by the bar in 2013 over procedural defaults made in handling appeals for three clients.