Real Life Imitates Fiction, In This Case, “The Firm”

Remember how, in the film adaptation of John Grisham’s “The Firm,” the young lawyer Mitch McDeere (Tom Cruise)who is  trapped in a mob-owned law firm wiggles out of his dilemma in part by proving that the firm’s lawyers were routinely over-billing clients?

Well, the Boston-based Thornton Law Firm and the Labaton Sucharow law firm in New York were caught inflating their billings on a similar scale.

Judge Mark L. Wolf concluded that the two firms double-billed  for their attorneys’ work on a class-action lawsuit involving State Street Bank, and even billed for the work of other attorneys not employed at either firm. Thornton’s managing partner, Garrett Bradley,  listed his brother as an attorney on the case and charged $200,000 for his time even though Michael Bradley was barely involved. Uncovering this scandal was another triumph of the Boston Globe Spotlight Team, the investigative reporting division that uncovered Boston’s predator priest cover-up in 2002. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 2/2/2020: The “Let’s Not Watch The CTE Bowl And Think About Ethics Instead” Edition

Good Afternoon!

I almost managed to ignore football completely this season, and I’m proud of it.  There were few rogue kneelers in the NFL this year, and the New England Patriots, my hometown role models for the Houston Astros, finally bit the dust. Meanwhile, there was little new on the CTE front, not any more is needed to prove that cheering young men in the process of destroying their brains for a handful of well-compensated seasons as football heroes is immoral and unethical.  I did recently watch the Netflix documentary, “The Killer Inside,” about Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots star who murdered a friend and perhaps two others. I didn’t know that after his suicide in prison, it was found that Hernandez suffered from CTE, and that  his brain was one of the most damaged scientists have ever seen.  The documentary also says that the New England Patriots coaching staff saw signs that he was deteriorating and becoming unstable, as well as using drugs, and they made no effort to intervene. After all, he was playing well, and the team was winning.

That’s pro football. To hell with it.

1. “The Chop.” I have written about this perpetually silly issue a lot, and recently, but the New York Times, being the Official Paper of the Woke, has felt it necessary to publish three pieces this week on the the so called “Kansas City Chop,” the tomahawk motion used by Kansas City Chiefs fans (The Chiefs are in the Super Bowl, you know) when cheering on their team. The chop is most identified with the Atlanta Braves (How satisfying it was to watch Jane Fonda dutifully chopping along with then husband Ted Turner when the  Braves finally made the world Series in 1991!), but Chiefs fans started copying Braves fans. It is, of course, intended to rally the team, has nothing whatsoever to do with any kind of commentary on Native Americans, those who pretend to be seriously unsettled by what fans of an NFL team do to show their affection for their team are either faking or need psychiatric care. But here’s CNN:
Continue reading

Oh, Great: 21% Of Lawyers Are Stealing From Their Clients.

This should be a shock, but it isn’t. When the screenwriters for the film adaptation of “The Firm” changed the ending to focus on the fact that the mob’s law firm was over-billing clients, lots of lawyers and legal ethics specialists squirmed. Widespread over-billing in the legal profession has been a scandal waiting to break for decades.

The ABA journal reveals that a recent study by  CEB Inc. and Wolters Kluwer NV’s ELM Solutions, companies that work with corporate legal departments to manage their budgets, examined legal invoices from about 100 companies, and found that 21% of lawyers “upbilled” for their time in 2015. Upbilling is the practice of rounding up legal hours hours worked to the next hour or half hour. This could raise the annual legal bill for a partner billing 2,000 hours a year by about $29,000. Spread over all the clients and all the lawyers charging by the hour, the 21% figure translates into millions of dollars taken by fraud, and maybe billions, every year. You can read summaries of the reports  here and here. Continue reading

Unethical To Be Too “Hard-Working”

Toledo, Ohio attorney Kristin Stahlbush has been suspended from the practice of law for two years for repeatedly over-billing the Lucas County juvenile and common pleas courts for her services as a court-appointed counsel representing low-income clients. On multiple occasions, Stahlbush billed more than 24 hours a day.

From the Legal Profession Blog:

“The Court agreed with the board’s conclusions that by knowingly billing for more hours than she had actually worked, [the attorney] violated the state disciplinary rules that prohibit charging an excessive fee; engaging in conduct involving fraud, deceit, dishonesty or misrepresentation; engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice; and engaging in conduct that adversely reflects on the attorney’s fitness to practice law.”

In the opinion, the Court said it did not impose more stringent penalties because she had no prior record of disciplinary issues,and was known as a competent and hard-working.

More than 24 hours a day? I’d say she’s hard-working, all right.