I just received the monthly
newsletter of the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board.
Not Fun and Games: Lawyer with Video
Game Addiction Suspended
This month's most interesting
disciplinary decision is the case of Office
of Disciplinary Counsel v. Matthew J. Eshelman. By order dated August 17,
2011, Eshelman was suspended for three years by the Supreme Court, after the
Disciplinary Board found that he had committed misconduct, much of it in the
nature of neglect and failure to discharge various ethical duties, in seventeen
The Respondent testified that he had
for more than ten years sought refuge from professional and personal stress in
computer games, to the point where he left or lost employment with three law
firms. He then entered solo practice, where he retreated even more deeply into
the games. He acknowledged that he could not practice law until he overcame his
claimed addiction to electronic recreation. Finally he sought assistance
from Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers and
took nonlegal employment.
Since Eshelman offered no expert
testimony, the Board did not find mitigating factors under Office of
Disciplinary Counsel v. Braun, 520 Pa. 157 [enhanced version available to lexis.com subscribers], 553 A.2d 894 (1989) [enhanced version ], but
determined that a three-year suspension, consistent with prior cases involving
similar misconduct, would allow Respondent to deal with the problem and restore
his prior competence before returning to the practice of law.
Concerned for Lawyers of Pennsylvania is a confidential, volunteer-driven
organization which has been helping distressed and impaired lawyers and judges
to regain their good health and professional competency since 1988. Lawyers
Concerned for Lawyers of Pennsylvania is not affiliated with or controlled by
the Supreme Court, the Disciplinary Board, the Judicial Conduct Board, the
Board of Law Examiners, or the Pennsylvania Bar Association, and does not
disclose information about lawyers it helps to those entities. Its confidential
helpline, open 24 hours a day every day, may be reached at 888-999-1941.
The tragedy in this story is that
Mr. Eshelman's career could have been saved years ago had someone at one of his
prior law firms taken action. Law firm partners and managers - even in small
firms - should be alert to unusual behaviors or unusual patterns in
performance, such as missed deadlines and neglect of client affairs.
When you see this stuff going on,
ask about it. It is better to confront the issue early and risk hurting
someone's feelings than to hope that the problem will somehow solve itself.
Doing nothing usually will only make things worse for the individual and for
your law firm.
here to download an article by Lisa Walker Johnson and Robert Sharpe about
mental health issues in law firms.
For more information on Walker Clark
services in this area, please contact Lisa M.
Walker Johnson by e-mail, or by telephone at +1.941.322.7077. (The
e-mail link will take you to a validation screen and then to your e-mail
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