January 4, 2013
Bonus Scheme Draws Suspension
An attorney who falsely claimed he had billed over 1,800 hours in two separate years in order to receive a bonus has been suspended for twelve months by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
The method by which the attorney (who was his law firm's treasurer) accomplished his scheme was described by the court:
After the Firm paid Attorney S. each of the bonuses, but before the Firm mailed his bills to his clients, Attorney S. reduced, or "wrote-down," certain of his billable hours for the years for which the bonuses were paid. In early 2008 Attorney S. wrote-down 29.2 hours of time from his 2007 billings without notifying the Firm. These write-downs caused Attorney S.'s 2007 billables to drop about 25 hours below the 1,800 level. In early 2009 Attorney S. wrote-down 231.9 hours from his 2008 billings, again without notifying the Firm. These write-downs caused Attorney S.'s 2008 billables to drop below 1,600 hours.
As to sanction:
We conclude that a 12-month license suspension is sufficient to advance the objectives of lawyer discipline. This is so due to the number of mitigating factors that appear in the record. Attorney S. has no previous disciplinary history. He lost his job with the Firm. He paid $60,000 to the Firm to compensate for the bonuses to which he was not entitled and for other unspecified damages claimed by the Firm. He forfeited his interest in the Firm's profit sharing plan. As explained below, these disciplinary proceedings have been costly to Attorney S. We are persuaded that, given these particular circumstances, Attorney S. understands the seriousness with which this court views his conduct, and he will not likely repeat it.
Chief Justice Abrahamson would impose the 18-month suspension propoped by the referee. (Mike Frisch)
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