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Solo In Chicago

...empowering the Second City's entrepreneurial legal community

Friday, September 19, 2008

Lap Dances and Legal Fees

Here's the story from today's Trib. about a DeKalb lawyers who had his law license suspended for acts relating to his representation of a stripper and bartering her legal fees downward in exchange for stripteases.

Let me say for starters, I don't like to make light of the failures of other attorneys because I'm not here to suggest I'm without failing and I hate it when I see lawyers "outing" other lawyers in various list serve forums. That said, since this piece was in today's Tribune which I'm guessing gets a bit more traffic than this little ole' blog I'm surely not the primary source of publicity.

At first glance at the Tribune piece my thought was honestly, what's wrong with bartering for legal services? I have known friends who've bartered for shares of stock and horses in the past. Is a lap dance different?

However, if you read the ARDC docs (Complaint, Review Board decision, and final Order) the story goes beyond lap dances to allegations of sexual abuse. Here's a blurb from the ARDC Review Board:

This case is before the Review Board on exceptions filed by Respondent-Appellant, Scott Robert Erwin. The Hearing Board found that, as charged in the Administrator-Appellee's two-count amended complaint, Erwin represented a client when the representation might be materially limited by his own interests, in violation of Rule 1.7(b) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (134 Ill. 2d R. 1.7(b)), failed to withdraw when he knew or reasonably should have known that continued employment would result in a violation of the Rules in violation of Rule 1.16(a)(2) (134 Ill. 2d R. 1.16(a)(2)), engaged in overreaching, breached a fiduciary duty, violated Rule 8.4(a)(3) (210 Ill. 2d R. 8.4(a)(3)) by committing a criminal act, specifically battery, that reflects adversely on his honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer, and engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(4) (210 Ill. 2d R. 8.4(a)(4)), conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(5) (210 Ill. 2d R. 8.4(a)(5)) and conduct that tends to defeat the administration of justice or bring the courts or legal profession into disrepute in violation of former Supreme Court Rule 771 (134 Ill. 2d R. 771) (renumbered to Supreme Court Rule 770). The Hearing Board recommended that Erwin be suspended for fifteen (15) months.

Take a look at some of those rules...they're quite broad. I know I haven't looked at those lately. Look at Rule 770: "conduct that tends to defeat the administration of justice or bring the courts or legal profession into disrepute." Or 8.4: "A lawyer shall not: violate or attempt to violate these Rules." Or 1.7, where a lawyer's own intersts limits the lawyer's representation.

Rember, clients are not your friends! And as you're performing legal services for people, don't stop asking, what's the worst thing that can happen and how do I cover my butt if allegations are raised??

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