The North Carolina State Bar has reprimanded Thom Goolsby for professional misconduct in his work as an attorney.
Goolsby is a former North Carolina State Senator who now serves on the UNC Board of Governors.
The reprimand, issued this summer and reported in the bar’s Winter 2019 journal, is “a written form of discipline more serious than an admonition issued in cases in which an attorney has violated one or more provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct and has caused harm or potential harm to a client, the administration of justice, the profession, or a member of the public, but the misconduct does not require a censure.”
The reprimand stems from a personal injury case in which Goolsby represented a client from January 2016 until November 2018.
The reprimand letter lays out the details of Goolsby’s misconduct in the matter:
“Over the course of the representation, your firm procrastinated and did very little work on her case. You also regularly failed to respond to her requests for information or to meet with you. Finally, when S.W. expressed frustration at your firm’s lack of work on her case, you terminated the representation right before the end of the statute of limitations. As the comments of Rule 1.3 note, “Perhaps no professional shortcoming is more widely resented than procrastination. A client’s interests often can be adversely affected by the passage of time or the change of conditions. In extreme instances, as when a lawyer overlooks a statute of limitations, the client’s legal position may be destroyed.” By failing to provide the services for which you were retained and failing to promptly work on S.W.’s case, you failed to act with reasonable diligence in violation of Rule 1.3. By failing to communicate with S.W. regarding the status of her case or respond to her requests for meetings, you violated Rule 1.4(a) and (b ). And by failing to take steps to protect your client’s interests upon termination of the representation, you violated Rule 1.16( d).
You are hereby reprimanded by the North Carolina State Bar for your professional misconduct. The Grievance Committee trusts that you will heed this reprimand, that it will be remembered by you, that it will be beneficial to you, and that you will never again allow yourself to depart from adherence to the high ethical standards of the legal profession.
As Policy Watch reported in September, the North Carolina Secretary of State’s office said it is looking into Goolsby’s operation of an “online financial education” company that might run afoul of a state order barring him from the financial services industry,
Goolsby left the state Senate in 2014, shortly after the collapse of an investment company he’d run with a partner since 2010. Former clients of the company filed a lawsuit in 2013 in which they claimed to have lost tens of thousands of dollars in risky investments to which they said they never consented. Eventually, the state dissolved the company and revoked Goolsby’s investment adviser registration.
In a consent order outlining an agreement with the Securities Division of the Secretary of State’s office, Goolsby and his partner were barred from seeking registration as investment advisers, investment adviser representatives, dealers or salesmen for 10 years.
Two securities law experts who examined the business’ offerings at Policy Watch’s request said Goolsby could be violating the spirit – and potentially the letter – of the order, issued in April 2014 by the office of the North Carolina Secretary of State.
So far no action has been taken by the Secretary of State’s office on that matter and the office has had no further comment.
Goolsby did not comment on the order or his new business.
He also could not be reached for comment on the Bar’s more recent reprimand.