Lawyer jokes notwithstanding, most lawyers are ethical, honorable, and competent. That’s why we tend to focus on attorney misbehavior in these pages; it’s more newsworthy. If a lawyer complies with the law or serves a client well, that’s not exactly “news”; it’s what lawyers are supposed to do, and what most lawyers do most of the time.
Alas, sometimes lawyers fall short of our profession’s high standards. Today we look at allegations of a high-ranking government lawyer abusing the perks of his office, a tax lawyer engaging in tax fraud, and a real estate lawyer who has people real mad — after taking $4 million from them.
Which of these attorneys deserves to be our Lawyer of the Day? We’ll describe their alleged misdeeds, outline the reasons for and against Lawyer of the Day honors, then let you vote for the winner….
* Stop bullying the judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. They don’t cave to just any government data request — they make changes to about 25 percent of them. But uh… they don’t like to talk about the other 75 percent. [Bloomberg]
* Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the number of Biglaw firms with failing grades for diversity. Hunton & Williams, Patton Boggs, and Thompson Coe are by far the worst offenders of all 19 large firms, with ZERO minority partners. [Texas Lawbook]
* A contract attorney is currently facing criminal charges for felony overbilling (which isn’t actually a real crime, but it’d be cooler if it was… plus it would make lots of lawyers from DLA Piper cry). [Radio Iowa]
* Well, at least one school got the message about the tuition being too damn high. Iowa Law is reducing tuition for out-of-state students by about $8K in the hopes of filling more seats. [Des Moines Register]
* Amanda Knox, more commonly known as Foxy Knoxy, says that she’s no “femme fatale,” but she’s being portrayed, again, as a “sex-obsessed she-devil” after already being acquitted of murder. [Reuters]
* Fashion designer Christian Louboutin was seeing red over the use of his trademark red soles in anti-Islam political messages, so he sued over it, and this time, he won. Rejoice, fashionistas! [New York Magazine]
* The shutdown has shuttered the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. I’m not really comfortable living without those regulators. [Breaking Energy]
* Don’t bother Goldman Sachs’s general counsel with your silly little questions. [Dealbreaker]
* The decisions you make in your twenties are rarely life-threatening. So get out there and make some atrocious life-decisions, kids! [Legal Cheek]
* Lawyer sent to prison for plotting to help a client hide jewels. That sounds way dirtier than it is. [ABA Journal]
* In scary news, Adrian Peterson’s 2-year-old son was brutally beaten. [TMZ]
* In case you missed our round-up, here are ten more highlights from a recent interview with Justice Scalia. He’s apparently a big Duck Dynasty fan, which explains a lot. Video embedded after the jump… [Bloomberg Law via YouTube]
The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Legal secretaries and other support staffers aren’t the only folks getting exiled from Biglaw. Partners who lie on their résumés are getting shown the door too.
In the prestige-soaked precincts of Biglaw, the pressure to inflate one’s credentials is understandable. Once you’re above a certain threshold, the quality of legal work can be hard to judge. In other fields of endeavor, you either can do it or you can’t — write code for a specific program, execute a triple Lutz, surgically reattach a severed hand (my dad can do this, in case you ever need his services).
In law, many people can write a brief or negotiate a contract. It then becomes a matter of how well you can do these things — and pedigree inevitably colors the evaluation of the legal services rendered.
In light of all this, a lawyer’s lying on his CV might be understandable — but it’s still a firing offense. A Biglaw partner learned this lesson the hard way….
So, you’ve failed the MPRE. That’s horrible for you — you’ve failed a test that Saul Goodman arguably passed. It’s not your finest hour.
The only thing you can do is get right back on the horse and try again. But now you’re in for a nasty surprise, because the MPRE people have figured out how to make money off of your failure, or at the very least, they’re going to require you to jump through a needless array of hoops to be able to take the test again at a reasonable price.
Does LSAC (the organization that administers the MPRE) nickle and diming people sound “unethical”? If so, that might be why you failed the test in the first place. You see, in MPRE land, the most obviously unethical thing is the wrong answer. But the second most shady thing is usually the right answer…
Have you ever sent an email to the wrong person? I remember sending co-defendant’s counsel a random musing about my office because Microsoft Exchange autocompleted the address to the name partner I was working with rather than the associate sitting down the hall with the same first name. Thankfully, my musing was not damaging or uniquely embarrassing.
The same cannot be said of this lawyer. After a state supreme court heard oral argument on his case, he wrote the lawyers who argued the case and questioned the wisdom of the jurists.
But, of course, he also sent it to the court’s chief justice….
Use of the verein structure: all the Biglaw cool kids are doing it. Okay, well maybe not the coolest kids, at least if “cool” is tied to profits per partner and prestige. But there’s no doubt that the verein structure is spreading rapidly throughout Biglaw.
This is partly because firms that use the verein form are fond of combining with other firms. If the talks between Dentons and McKenna Long bear fruit, the resulting entity will surely be a verein, like Dentons and its constituent firms.
But does the verein structure present ethical problems for the firms that employ it? Two observers of the legal profession believe it does….
* U. Penn. Law doesn’t need to toot its own horn about kicking off its visiting jurist program with a Supreme Court justice — we’ll do it on the school’s behalf: toot f-ing toot for Justice Kennedy. [National Law Journal]
* President Obama nominated former OLC attorney and current HLS professor David Barron for a First Circuit vacancy, and a Western New England alum for a district court judgeship. Congrats! [Boston Globe]
* The Senate confirmed Todd Hughes for a seat on the Federal Circuit without any opposition. This is what progress looks like: Hughes will be the first openly gay federal appellate judge in U.S. history. [BuzzFeed]
* Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, is pretty pissed that federal budget issues are allowing his office to get outgunned by wealthy financial firms. [DealBook / New York Times]
* “It seems a very coordinated effort of smugness.” As we reported previously, lawyers from the small firm representing Michael Jackson’s family think O’Melveny & Myers is full of d-bags. [Los Angeles Times]
* Sorry, but you can’t bang your clients. Well, that’s not completely true. You can bang your clients, but you have to bang them before there’s a legal relationship to keep banging them ethically. [Daily Report]
Public opinion is polarized regarding the mega-leakers Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. One common view holds them to be heroic patriots. To others, they’re simply traitors. Prominent whistleblower attorney John Howley asks us to consider the possibility that they can be both at once.
Last week, ATL—along with our friends at Lawline—hosted a fascinating (seriously) and timely CLE course, Whistleblowers, Traitors and the Rule of Law. Howley walked the attendees through the various laws governing whistleblowers, treason, and espionage. He also gave an overview of the most important whistleblower and treason cases, as well as explored the thorny legal and ethical implications for lawyers involved in such cases.
The course was as much a history lesson as a legal one. The role of whistleblower plays an integral part of our national history. In fact, the first American whistleblower law predates the country’s founding. In 1777, sailors accused the commander of the Continental Navy, Commodore Esek Hopkins, of torturing captured British sailors, and petitioned the Continental Congress to remove him. Hopkins sued for criminal libel, and Congress — by unanimous vote — agreed to defend the sailors in the suit. Congress also passed a law requiring all military members to inform Congress of “misconduct, frauds or misdemeanors committed by any officers in the service of these states.”
Many of the most important heroes in American history were, technically, traitors, including the Founding Fathers. And knowingly so. As Benjamin Franklin quipped, “We must hang together or we will hang separately.”
* Paul Bergrin, more commonly known as the “Baddest Lawyer in the History of Jersey,” was handed a life sentence yesterday. At least he’ll have street cred with his gen pop friends. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]
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When Chintan Panchal decided to leave a global BigLaw partnership to start his own firm, he could only hope that he would face the high-quality problem of firm building that many had cautioned him about. Focused on the uncertainty surrounding of a new firm launch, he decided to tackle staffing needs, IT challenges, and financial planning requirements after he had built up his legal practice.
Panchal Associates LLP–a corporate/finance and outside general counsel boutique–was quickly off to a great start. Clients and matters were flying in the door, and Chintan soon had a team of lawyers and staff with a variety of operational needs. To continue building an excellent team and provide them with a competitive benefits package, to expand his physical presence to include a European practice and additional partners, and to scale his operations and IT capabilities to support this growing enterprise brought with it demands of time, money, and expertise. Chintan knew he needed help.
“With the assistance of NexFirm, we have upgraded the capabilities of our firm to meet, and in some cases exceed, the standards we were used to at our former BigLaw firms. Operationally, we can now attract and service clients we didn’t have the bandwidth to support in the past, and continue to build our team with the best and brightest legal talent in the industry,” said Chintan Panchal, adding “It has worked out quite well in our case; NexFirm is an essential partner for us.”
The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.
We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in…
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