Did Michigan Attorney Watch One Too Many Episodes of LA Law?

In a disciplinary case which could have been ripped right out of an episode of  the old TV sitcom “LA Law,”  a Michigan attorney was suspended from practice for 180 days after a string of sensational allegations, including that he offered clients a “couch of restitution” to pay off their legal fees.

 

On Nov. 23, the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board affirmed findings of misconduct and imposed the 180-day sanction, which the Board feels ensures sufficient time so that the lawyer being sanctioned will have to undergo fitness proceedings before being reinstated.

 

“Taking into consideration the range of professional misconduct in this case, we conclude that protection of the public, the courts and the profession requires that respondent be suspended for a sufficient period of time to ensure that he is not permitted to resume his standing as a member of the profession unless he is able to establish his fitness by clear and convincing evidence,” the opinion states.

 

It seems the attorney’s secretary was oblivious to his actions, according to her testimony.  But I rather doubt it.  As I think back on some of the more sensational headlines of the past few decades regarding cases of sexual misconduct, harassment, and so forth, what we usually find is a rather blatant pattern of behavior which is routinely ignored or even covered up by the offending party’s partners or coworkers. 

 

The time has come for firms to up their vigilance and work doubly hard to restore the ethical image of the profession.  See the article I wrote in June, 2007 entitled “Living With Integrity” in which I discuss this very issue.  Then ask what steps your firm has taken in the past few years to ensure it is doing all it can to practice with the highest level of integrity. 

 

It’s particularly important to revisit this now.  Why?  History tells us that when the economy is troubled and law firms are struggling for survival, short term profit improvement often outweighs ethical considerations.  It’s just so easy to justify a ride down the slippery slope when the firm’s very survival seems to be at stake.  Unfortunately, integrity is not something we can incorporate into our lives only when the bottom line is healthy and the economy is strong.  In fact, it’s the very manner in which one chooses to deal with difficult times that determines strength of character and organizational integrity.

 

Think about it.  It won’t make you rich.  But you will be a better person for it.

 

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