KABOOM! A Head-Explodingly Unethical Lawyer!

I have never heard of a lawyer behaving this unethically in such a reckless and transparent manner. I have never heard of anything close to this.

Michael Potere, 32, a recently fired former associate at the large law firm Dentons was arrested last week on charges of trying to extort $210,000 and a valuable artwork from the firm, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court.

According to his profile on LinkedIn, Potere had a Fulbright Scholarship,  a master’s degree in public policy and administration from the London School of Economics., and had been an associate at renowned law firm Kirkland & Ellis. Something was amiss, however, as Dentons let him go on June 1. Potere did not take this blow well. He reacted by telling partners that he had taken potentially  embarrassing sensitive information from the firm and would leak it all to the legal gossip site “Above the Law” unless he was paid $210,000 and given  a valuable  piece of artwork owned by the firm.

Potere was able to steal the confidential information because a partner gave him  access to his email login information while they were working on a case in 2015, so the associate could access documents related to discovery requests in the case. After he learned that he was being fired, Potere used that login to search through the partner’s emails and download the sensitive documents, including emails between partners, quarterly financial reports, client lists, confidential reviews of associate attorneys, lists of equity partner candidates, documents describing billing rates, details of recruitment efforts, and memos describing how partners should approach clients with outstanding balances” according to the FBI.

Extorting a major law firm? That takes more than guts: that takes insanity and a death wish Potere told lawyers at the firm that he knew his actions might end his legal career—Ya think??—and that  his recent admission to graduate school might be revoked, but that  “it would be worth it.”How could it possibly have been worth it, unless that work of art was the Mona Lisa?

The major ethics lessons this weird case will stand for are filed under technology competence and professional diligence: Adequate cyber-security systems and training are essential for  any organization, and  hacking can be an inside job more easily than anything the Russians could manage.Another lesson is that a lot of impressive credentials on a curriculum vitae don’t prove that a potential employee is trustworthy.


25 thoughts on “KABOOM! A Head-Explodingly Unethical Lawyer!

  1. What is the London School of Economics up to? I met a woman earlier this year who had obtained a masters degree in Human Rights from the London School of Economics. What is that? Do they still teach economics there?

    • The way the university got its name is an interesting story, so I won’t spoil it for you. Mick Jagger is a graduate; my father-in-law and a former Yale University president received their doctorates there. I think many people like the school because it has the coolest graduation robes and caps.

      • Hah. I knew the Mich Jagger factoid. Did he actually get a degree there or just attend for a while? I think he was a pretty good autodidact when it comes to economics.

  2. The guy obviously had some sort of mental break. No one with his intellect would have concocted this scheme otherwise.

    Plus, did you look at the information he stole? A big nothing-burger. Every firm has similar memos about non-payment, bonuses, etc.

    Shame on Dentons for having such weak training. Partners, no matter how busy or lazy they are, should give out their credentials.

    • “No one with his intellect would have concocted this scheme otherwise.”

      Intelligence is no guaranteed bulwark against misconduct. I don’t even think intelligence is a greater bulwark against misconduct than lack of intelligence.

      • I don’t think you got my point. Yes, smart people commit crimes all the time. But here, there was a 0% chance, and I stress 0%, chance of success. The guy here, on top of his academic credentials, was an AG and worked for two of the top law firms in the world. Do you want to know what is stupid? Trying to blackmail a top law firm that has virtually endless financial and legal resources. The guy snapped — that probably had something to do with his decision to go back to school. Lawyers, especially big law lawyers, are no strangers to mental illness and substance abuse.

        • Lawyers, especially big law lawyers, are no strangers to mental illness and substance abuse.

          Given the job, I would think they might not be strangers at all to those issues. If not close friends, at least roommates!

          Lawyers have to deal with tough situations all the time, IMHO, and it is bound to take a toll. Do not mean to imply that all lawyers are substance abusers or mentally ill…


          What’s the difference between a dead skunk in the road and a dead lawyer in the road?
          There are skid marks in front of the skunk.

            • http://www.iciclesoftware.com/LawJokes/IcicleLawJokes.html

              What do you call a lawyer with an IQ of 100?
              Your Honor.
              What do you call a lawyer with an IQ of 50

              A rabbi, a Hindu, and a lawyer are in a car. They run out of gas, and are forced to stop at a farmer’s house. The farmer says that there are only 2 extra beds, and one person will have to sleep in the barn.
              The Hindu says, “I’m humble, I’ll sleep in the barn,” so he goes out to the barn. In a few minutes, the farmer hears a knock on the door. It’s the Hindu and he says, “There is a cow in the barn. It’s against my beliefs to sleep with a cow.”
              So the rabbi says, “I’m humble, I’ll sleep in the barn.” A few minutes later, the farmer hears another knock on the door and it’s the rabbi. He says that it is against his beliefs to sleep where there is a pig and there is a pig in the barn.
              So the lawyer is forced to sleep in the barn. A few minutes later, there is a knock on the door. It’s the pig and the cow.

              How many lawyer jokes are there?
              Only three. The rest are true stories.

              • Slick — and? I didn’t argue ALL socialized medicine. I said that it should work like Medicare — an American invention. If people can afford better treatment, they would be entitled to it. In your example, the parents raised $1.6 M — under my plan, they would be able to buy additional treatment with that money.

  3. You’d be surprised how many people are totally ignorant about and lackadaisical using security. Just a few days ago, I had a woman at the local Dollar Store explain to me that her phone couldn’t be hacked…it was, after all, A PHONE! My first thought was to get her number, go home and hack her phone. Decided against it, since it would not only be unethical, even if to teach a valuable lesson, but illegal, even if to teach…well, you know. It was also more work than I wanted to put into a “Gotcha” moment.

    • What bothers me isn’t so much the ignorance- We’re all ignorant about something or another- but the hubris mixed with ignorance. When someone asks me about my opinion on topics I know I know nothing about, my standard line is some variation of, “I dont know enough about that to have an intelligent opinion. Can I interest you in a snarky comment, instead?” But to think that you KNOW your phone can’t be hacked, because…well, who knows why she thought that, man, that level of arrogance just burns me.

      tl;dr- Arrogance, especially unearned arrogance, is the worst.

Leave a Reply to slickwilly Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.