#BP11 Abusing the Professional-Client Relationship


Michael W. Fine, an Ohio lawyer, is headed to prison after using hypnosis on six of his female clients and performing sexual acts. Fine’s clients were unaware what was happening in their client meetings with him, and often walked out of the meetings dazed and confused, only remembering discussing legal matters. However, they would notice their clothes would be disheveled and feeling as if their privates had been touched. One client reported the situation to the police, and was asked to wear a microphone and camera to the next meeting with Fine. In this meeting, Fine attempted to place the client under hypnosis once again, but was stopped by the Sheffield Village Police Department and arrested.

Ethical Analysis:

Philosopher Michael D. Bayles provides us with an ethical model that he feels should govern the professional-client relationship. There are sub-models of this model, which are leveled by amount of decision making authority and responsibility an individual has in the professional-client relationship: the agency model, the contract model, the friendship model, the paternalistic model, and the fiduciary model.

In this case, the most relevant sub-model would be the agency model, where the client has the decision making authority. In most lawyer-client relationships, lawyers are hired to fight the battle for the client and go for what the client wants. As Bayles says, lawyers are merely the “mouthpiece” or “hired gun”. In Fine’s case, he violates the agency model by looking past what he is supposed to do for the client, and uses the client for his own means of pleasure. He also breaks the law by performing sexual acts on his clients against their will.

The contract model is where there is equal distribution of decision making authority between the professional and client. In this model, no one has more power over the other, but are equally influenced by each other. The friendship model is where the professional and client have a close relationship and mutual trust and cooperation. Much like the contract model, this relationship is considered a partnership in effort to reach the common goal. The paternalistic model is where the professional controls the decision making authority. And the fiduciary model is where the professional’s superior knowledge is recognized and given majority of the decision making authority, but works in the best interest of the client.

In no way does Fine act in the best interest of his clients or does he acknowledge their authority. He should be performing tasks under the orders of his clients and that is all. However, his decision to take it beyond those boundaries is a direct violation of the agency model, as well as all other sub-models in the professional-client relationship model.



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