Tuesday, June 22, 2021

False Billing To Secure Bonus Alleged

The Illinois Administrator has filed a complaint alleging that a law firm associate falsely reported the hours he had worked on an inmate's civil rights case to which his firm had been appointed as counsel

At all times while employed by [Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith] , Respondent prepared daily records in which he attributed time to the matters that he worked on. When he prepared these records, he knew that LBBS would consider the number of hours Respondent spent providing legal services to the firm’s clients, whether clients to which the firm billed for its services or pro bono clients, in determining the continuation of his employment and his compensation, including bonuses.

In 2019, Respondent recorded 2,061 hours of time that he claimed he worked on the Robinson matter. Respondent claimed that many of these hours were spent preparing responses to the defendants’ motion to dismiss and motion for summary judgment.

And allegedly continued to record hours after the matter had been dismissed

Between January 3, 2020 and December 23, 2020, Respondent recorded 2,061.4 hours to the Robinson matter, even though the matter had been closed and LBBS’s representation of Robinson had ended. Respondent knew by at least January 21, 2020, the lapse of the 28-day period to appeal, that the firm would not be appealing the adverse ruling on behalf of Mr. Robinson. In records created to account for the time he purportedly spent on the matter in 2020, Respondent described the work he did as drafting, editing, and amending a motion for summary judgment. For each day that Respondent claimed that he worked on the Robinson matter, he entered a description of his purported legal services and the time that he claimed he spent, with each entry specific to the tenth of an hour. Any time that Respondent spent on the summary judgment motion prior to January 21, 2020 served no purpose because the case had been dismissed and no appeal had been filed. All of the entries for January 21, 2020 and later were false because Respondent had not worked on the Robinson matter since at least January 21, 2020. Respondent knew each time he recorded time to the Robinson matter between January 21, 2020 and December 23, 2020 that his time entry was false.

In 2020, LBBS awarded quarterly bonuses to associates who met an annual "billable hours" requirement. For each quarter in 2020, Respondent falsely billed enough hours to the Robinson matter to demonstrate that he would achieve the annual billable hours requirement. Based on these false representations, LBBS paid Respondent a bonus each quarter totaling $12,000 for the year.

He allegedly made false statements when confronted but

When a LBBS partner confronted Respondent with the status of the Robinson case, Respondent then admitted that he knew that the case had been dismissed in 2019, and he admitted that he had not been preparing a motion for summary judgment. LBBS terminated Respondent’s employment on February 11, 2021 because he had been falsely recording time to the Robinson matter in 2020 and 2021 without working on the matter, and he lied to members of LBBS at the February 11, 2021 meeting.

Count Two alleges that the attorney made false statements about the above circumstances when interviewing with other firms

After Respondent’s termination from LBBS, he began to seek other employment. Respondent interviewed with at least four Chicago law firms. In the course of the interview process, each of those law firms asked Respondent about the circumstances surrounding his departure from LBBS. Each time, Respondent told the law firm with which he was interviewing that LBBS had laid him off because LBBS did not have enough work to support his continued employment.

(Mike Frisch)


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