GMA Recognitions

Published articles

“Out of Sight, Out of Mind” Challenges of Supervision During a Pandemic
By: Agnieszka N. Chiapperini

For almost one year now, remote work in the legal field has become the rule rather than the exception that it used to be, and most of us have adapted and accepted this new way of practicing. However, we must remember not to also adopt an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude, especially when it comes to supervisory responsibilities over other lawyers and non-lawyer staff.

Florida’s Rules of Professional Conduct contain specific requirements for partners and managing lawyers to make “reasonable efforts” to ensure that other lawyers and non-lawyer staff conform to the outlined ethics rules. See generally Florida’s Rules of Professional Conduct, Rules 4-5. Rules 4-5.1, 4-5.2, and 4-5.3 and comments thereto provide guidance on this topic.

First, Rule 4-5.1 requires each law firm to have in place policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the Rules of Professional Conduct on a firm-wide basis, the specifics of which will “depend on the nature of the firm’s practice and the structure of the firm, including taking into consideration the size of the firm and the experience level of the attorneys.” See ETHICS DURING COVID-19, Florida Bar News (Apr. 8, 2020), https://www.floridabar. org/the-florida-bar-news/ethics-duringcovid- 19/.

Next, Rule 4-5.2 imposes upon subordinate lawyers a duty to take responsibility for their own conduct, even when acting at the direction of their supervisors. A subordinate lawyer can “rely on a supervisor’s opinion,” provided that the conduct involved a “reasonable resolution” of an “arguable question of a professional duty.”

Finally, Rule 4.5-3 deals with supervisory responsibility over non-lawyers, which includes assistants, paralegals, case managers, and other non-lawyer staff. Lawyers have the ultimate responsibility over the conduct and work-product of their non-lawyer staff. Such responsibility requires the lawyer to review conduct of, and work-product prepared by non-lawyer staff. Comments to the Rule specify that lawyers must give “appropriate instructions and supervision.”

But how can lawyers comply with these rules and successfully supervise other lawyers and non-lawyer staff when working remotely? As a result of the remote-work environment brought about by the pandemic, each law firm’s policies and procedures related to supervision had to be greatly revised, if not completely overhauled. Gone are the days of conference room meetings and cubicle huddles. Paralegals and new lawyers can no longer “pop” into a partner’s office with a question. While modern technology has given us many marvelous tools that make interaction easier than ever, there is not a one-size-fits all solution. E-mail correspondence, phone calls, video conferences, and chat features allow lawyers and non-lawyer staff to stay reasonably connected. However, at the core of supervision is frequent and meaningful communication.

Partners and managing lawyers should create policies and procedures that require at least daily communication between supervising and subordinate lawyers to allow transparency, guidance, and a medium for answering questions, especially when it comes to lawyers that are newly licensed or working on complicated issues. There should be even more engagement between lawyers and their non-lawyer staff because the acts of the non-lawyer staff are essentially those of the lawyer. Lawyers should take a more active role in reviewing filings and correspondence drafted by non-lawyer staff, keeping track of important dates and deadlines, identifying conflicts of interest, accounting for client funds and assets, restricting disclosure of confidential client information, and ensuring confidentiality during remote communications with clients. Although these are all essential functions common to the legal industry, our environment can sometimes influence our focus, so we must not allow our presence at home to let us rest on our laurels.

 

Results obtained for our clients

-Agnieszka N. Chiapperini and Devang Desai were successful in securing a summary final judgment in favor of an insurance carrier client in a property damage case allegedly arising out of or as a result of Hurricane Irma. Plaintiff brought a breach of contract claim against the firm’s client in the 17th Judicial Circuit, in Broward county, seeking payment for mitigation and restoration services provided to an insured homeowner to whom the firm’s client issued an insurance policy.

Plaintiff claimed that the damages to the insured homeowner’s property were caused by Hurricane Irma, and, thus, the services provided by Plaintiff were covered and payable under the policy of insurance. The firm was successful in securing a summary judgment determination that both Plaintiff and the insured homeowner failed to comply with their duties under the policy such that the firm’s client was prejudiced in its investigation into the cause of the alleged loss. The Broward County Court Judge upon presentation of the legal and factual positions presented by the firm, granted summary final judgment in favor of the carrier client on the grounds that there was no coverage for the insured homeowner’s claim, and, thus, no liability as to the firm’s client under the subject issued policy of insurance.

-Mark R. Antonelli, along with Fiorella Gasco, were successful in securing a summary final judgment in favor of a landscaping client in a case arising out of a trip and fall accident at Miami International Airport.  The Plaintiff brought a personal injury claim against the firm’s client, and Miami-Dade County d/b/a Miami International Airport, arising out of a trip and fall accident that occurred on January 27, 2015.  The Plaintiff claimed that he tripped and fell over a tree stump located within a landscaped area of the airport.  The firm was successful in securing a summary judgment determination that there was no liability as to the firm’s client on the basis that the location of the tree stump, in a landscaped area, did not present a legally recognizable negligence claim against the firm’s client.  In addition to obtaining a summary final judgment in favor of the firm’s client, the firm also obtained a judgment against the Plaintiff for attorney’s fees and costs as a result of the issuance of both a non-accepted proposal for settlement and as a result of the client being the prevailing party in the subject action.

 

Martindale-Hubbell® AV Preeminent™ 2021

Martindale-Hubbell® AV Preeminent™ Peer Review Rating has been awarded Michael A. Mullen, Mark R. Antonelli, Greg M. Gaebe, Anthony M. DiMatteo, Devang Desai, Miriam R. Merlo, Joseph M. Winsby, Carlos B. Salup and James Robertson, III with the “Peer Rated for Highest Level of Professional Excellence 2021.” This rating signifies that a large number of the lawyer’s peers rank him or her at the highest level of professional excellence. Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Rating™ the gold standard in attorney rating, require lawyers for their strong legal ability and high ethical standards. AV Preeminent™ is Martindale-Hubbell® highest peer rating standard signifying that a large number of the lawyer’s peers rank him or her at the highest level of professional excellence for their legal knowledge, communication, skills and ethical standards. Martindale Hubbell® Peer Review Rating™ allow attorneys to complete anonymous peer reviews where they follow lawyers in five categories: Legal Knowledge; Analytical Capabilities, Judgment, Communication Ability and Legal Experience, and whether they believe the lawyer they are reviewing has very high ethical standards.

 

Super Lawyers® 2021

GMA is honored to have Michael A. Mullen, Mark R. Antonelli, Greg M. Gaebe, Devang Desai, Joseph M. Winsby and Carlos B. Salup recognized by Super Lawyers®. Super Lawyers® is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The patented selection process includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations.

 

U.S. News Best Lawyers® Best Law firms 2021

The firm proudly announces that two Partners were recognized by Best Lawyers as Lawyers of the Year: Anthony DiMatteo, partner in the firm’s West Palm Beach Office and Mark R. Antonelli, partner in the firm’s Coral Gables office, were both recognized as ‘Lawyer of the Year’ by U.S News/Best Lawyers. Mr. DiMatteo received Lawyer of the Year honors for Palm Beach County in Product Liability Litigation – Defendant. Mr. Antonelli received Lawyer of the Year honors for Miami-Dade County in Mass Tort Litigation/Class Actions – Defendant.

Mr. DiMatteo, in addition to the Lawyer of the Year honor, also was recognized by Best Lawyers in the field of Personal Injury Litigation – Defendant. Mr. Antonelli, in addition to the Lawyer of the Year honor, was also recognized by Best Lawyers in the fields of Commercial Litigation, Personal Injury Litigation – Defendant and Product Liability Litigation – Defendant. Additionally, Michael A. Mullen and Greg Gaebe were also recognized as Best Lawyers for Mr. Mullen’s work in Personal Injury Litigation – Defendant and Product Liability Litigation – Defendant and Mr. Gaebe’s work in Personal Injury Litigation – Defendant.

GMA is nationally ranked in one practice area and regionally ranked in six practice areas by The U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” whose ranking are based on a rigorous evaluation process. For a firm to be recognized they must have at least one lawyer who is recognized in the current edition of Best Lawyers in a “Best Law Firms” ranked practice area or metro area. Data is also collected from Best Lawyer ballots, which can only be completed by lawyers who are currently recognized by Best Lawyers®.

 

South Florida Legal Guide® 2021

The Firm celebrates its selection in the South Florida Legal Guide 2021 album as a Top Law Firm, and the selections of those in the firm as Top Lawyers and Top Up & Comers.

Top Lawyers was awarded to:

• Michael A. Mullen – Civil Trial Practice
• Mark R. Antonelli – Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Defense & Premise Liability – Defense
• Greg M. Gaebe – Product Liability – Defense
• Anthony M. DiMatteo – Insurance Litigation – Defense

Top Up & Comers was awarded to:

• Devang Desai – Insurance Litigation – Defense
• Joseph M. Winsby – Insurance Litigation

The South Florida Legal Guide publishes a listing of selected Top Lawyers and Top Law Firms. Selections of top listings are based entirely on peer nominations. During the months of April and May of each year, lawyers in South Florida are invited to nominate their peers and peer firms to the South Florida Legal Guide listing for Top Lawyer, Top Law Firm and Top Up and Comer.