On Tuesday, January 17, 2023, the Supreme Court of the State of Hawai’i ruled on the disciplinary charges concerning Honolulu attorney Erik W. Kvam for unreasonable fees.

The case is styled Office of Disciplinary Counsel vs. Eril W. Kvam with ODC Case #20-9001.

The charges cited Hawai’i Rules of Professional Conduct (HRPC) 1.5(a) and (b), 1.13(e), 7.2, and 8.4(c).

The Hawai’i Rules of Professional Conduct can be found on the Hawai’i State Judiciary website.

The disciplinary matter involves allegations that Kvam charged unreasonable fees in his representation of a client. It was further alleged that he misrepresented to the client that the fee paid to him was for legal services, when in fact, a significant portion was instead paid to the employee as a commission.

The filing states:

“Respondent Kvam, in 2010, failed to communicate the basis or rate of his fees to a new client within a reasonable time after commencing the representation. . . and invoiced, and received from, his client $59,750.00 for 59.75 hours of legal work, asserting a rate of $1,000.00 an hour. . .”

The filing continues:

“Respondent Kvam. . . failed to act in the best interest of his corporate client, including by failing to consult with a higher authority at the corporation when confronted by, and conceding to, an employee’s request both for a cash commission for assisting with securing the representation and for the draft of an indemnity agreement of extraordinary scope and breadth to indemnify the employee against the interests of the corporation, and invoicing his client for the preparation of the indemnity agreement.”

With the foregoing facts and after considering the aggravating and mitigating factors, the Disciplinary Board found that Kvam’s conduct was knowingly and intentional and has caused serious injury to his client. The board then recommended disbarment.

While the court adopted the Board’s findings of facts, and the recommended aggravating and mitigating factors, the Court deemed it appropriate to impose a lighter discipline in the form of a suspension in consideration of Kvam’s clear disciplinary record.

The disposition reads:

“IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Respondent Erik W. Kvam is suspended for two years from the practice of law in this jurisdiction, effective 30 days after the date of entry of this order, pursuant to Rule 2.16(c) of the Rules of the Supreme Court of the State of Hawai’i.”

Prior to the suspension, Mr. Erik W. Kvam practiced as a renewable energy and patent attorney in Honolulu, Hawaii, and managing director of Hawaii Energy Law Services. He attended the Georgetown University Law Center, graduating in 1983. Mr. Kvam has been licensed in Hawai’i, as well as in California and New York. His info can be found on LinkedIn.

A copy of the Order of Suspension can be found here.