Thursday, December 6, 2007

"Ambitious, Arrogant, And Overly Driven"

It seems like this may be a day of interesting bar discipline cases. The Illinois Review Board issued a recommendation in a case involving billing misconduct by an attorney in an insurance defense firm. The firm had a minimum billing requirement of 900 hours per six months that gradually increased to 2100 hours per year. The attorney worked ungodly hours--in the office at 6:15 am and returning home at 8 pm or after. He worked every Saturday and Sunday, taking two or three vacations in over 13 years. Needless to say, he met the firm's billing requirements.

Nonetheless, the attorney billed triple time for three cases heard together, billed for court appearences he did not make, depositions he did not attend and other services he had not performed. When discovered, he resigned from the firm and self-reported to the bar. The fraud involved at least $28,000, which the firm refunded to the overcharged clients.

Why did this happen? According to the board:

" Adams testified that his misconduct arose out of his desire to achieve, rather than being motivated by financial gain. Adams stated that he had been ambitious, arrogant, and overly driven and that he thought he had to be 'the number one guy.' He perceived the number of hours billed as the way to achieve. Adams recognized that his behavior was wrong and accepted sole responsibility for his misconduct. He testified that this type of behavior was limited to billing at Williams, Montgomery and did not extend into other aspects of his life

Adams also testified that he had come to understand that being number one was not the key and that being good was much more satisfying. He had learned from the lawyers with whom he shared space that the important thing was not to nickel and dime clients or sneak an hour here or there, but to help people. Adams testified that that was what he was trying to do in his current practice. "

The Board recommends a suspension of 5 1/2 months. A dissent would impose a one year suspension. (Mike Frisch)

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