Biglaw, California, Crime, Health Care / Medicine, Kids, Partner Issues, Sexual Harassment, Small Law Firms, Solo Practitioners, White-Collar Crime

Bad News for Former Biglaw Partners on the West Coast

Do you believe in life after law? More specifically, do you believe in life after Biglaw?

Many former partners at major law firms spend their post-Biglaw years living large — as well they should. After all, they worked very hard, for many years, to amass seven-figure, eight-figure, or even nine-figure fortunes. After leaving behind the life of billing 2000+ hours a year, they finally have time to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

But not all ex-partners find themselves on Easy Street. Take, for example, these two ex-partners in California — one whose civil suit against her former firm isn’t going so well, and one who might be going from Biglaw to the Big House….

WGWAG? Juliette Youngblood and Morgan Chu

We briefly mentioned the first development on Friday. Lawyer turned movie producer Juliette Youngblood, a former partner at Irell & Manella, sued the firm over the summer, alleging sex discrimination. She also claimed she was sexually harassed by superstar IP litigator Morgan Chu.

The firm moved to compel arbitration — and recently prevailed, as reported by Law360 (subscription). It’s possible that Youngblood could end up with a decent award after arbitration, but it’s also possible that she’ll end up with nothing. And now that the matter is in arbitration, as opposed to headed for a public trial, Irell has much less of an incentive to settle and make Youngblood (and the bad publicity) go away.

UPDATE (10:30 p.m.): Via a commenter, here’s the order by Judge Amy Hogue granting Irell’s motion to compel arbitration (but severing certain provisions of the partnership agreement as unconscionable).

UPDATE (12/17/2014): After going into arbitration, the case was resolved in Irell & Manella’s favor. See this stipulation and order and this judgment.

Our second story, from northern California, involves graver consequences. It concerns an ex-partner who might end up in prison.

In August 2010, we reported on allegations against Jonathan Dickstein, a former partner at Morrison & Foerster, in the high-powered practice area of intellectual property. Dickstein and his wife were accused of fraud, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle:

A former partner at a well-known law firm and his marketing consultant wife were arrested Wednesday on felony charges of bilking the San Francisco school district and private insurers out of about $400,000 via fraudulent bills for treatment of their autistic son, officials say.

The San Francisco couple, Jonathan S. Dickstein and Barclay J. Lynn, both 43, surrendered Wednesday and are expected to appear in court this morning for arraignment on 30 counts of fraud, theft and conspiracy, authorities say.

Using your autistic son to bilk the taxpayers out of money: not cool.

Initially Dickstein and Lynn pleaded not guilty. But then they had a change of heart, as suggested by this report by Sara Randazzo in Am Law Daily:

Jonathan Dickstein, a former Morrison & Foerster partner in San Francisco, could wind up in prison after pleading guilty Tuesday to 31 felony counts stemming from a $400,000 scam he and his wife concocted based on their autistic son’s education and medical treatment.

Dickstein is scheduled to be sentenced November 15 following his conviction on charges including grand theft, forgery, insurance fraud, and conspiracy, a spokesman for the San Francisco District Attorney’s office confirmed Friday.

Dickstein is no longer at MoFo. According to Am Law, the Harvard Law School graduate left the firm a few months before he and his wife were arrested, to set up a solo practice.

His wife, Barclay Lynn, looks like she’ll come out of this okay. She was sentenced to one day in jail and received credit for time served, according to her lawyer, Douglas Rappaport. (She must also repay the stolen money, of course.)

Will Jonathan Dickstein be so lucky? His lawyer, Garrick Lew, did not comment to Am Law, but his wife’s lawyer did:

“Even though, currently, we all love to punish white-collar criminals—it’s the same reason why people are occupying Wall Street… the fact is, Jonathan has hurt nobody physically,” [attorney Doug] Rappaport says. “When you take money from people, you hurt them indirectly. It’s different if you punch somebody in the face and it’s different if you sell crack.”

These are fair points — and probably persuasive to many Above the Law readers. Similar arguments carried the day in our recent Above the Law / Dealbreaker debate over the sentencing of white-collar criminals.

Rappaport says the public shaming the couple has been forced to undergo and the damage that Dickstein has suffered to his career is punishment enough.

People sometimes complain about being featured in the media for their misdeeds. But if such “public shaming” can shave time off your sentence or help you avoid prison entirely, it’s probably worth it, right?

Ex-Irell Partner’s Sex Bias Suit Goes To Arbitration [Law 360 (subscription)]
Former MoFo Partner Pleads Guilty to Bilking Insurers, San Francisco Schools [Am Law Daily]
Former MoFo Partner Pleads Guilty in Autism Double-Billing Fraud [ABA Journal]

Earlier: Former MoFo Partner Accused of Major Fraud
Lawsuit of the Day: Youngblood v. Irell & Manella

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