Saturday, June 14, 2008

Local lawyer does the right thing

After a lawyer misappropriated more than $200K from her firm's client trust account (an act for which she was later suspended from the practice of law), an associate in her firm compensated all of her clients by working for free for roughly three months on those files. For the full story about this case, see here. Here's the part I loved:
[Attorney Louis] Schneider said he relied on the teachings of his father, a retired Marine Corps gunnery sergeant, in deciding to come forward [and report his boss to the state bar].

"He has always told me you do the right thing, even if you stand alone," Schneider said.

"On flat-fee cases I completed their cases, and on hourly cases I gave them credit for the missing money, because it was the right thing to do," he said. "So I essentially worked for free for three months cleaning up those cases."

. . . ["] I was was not going to risk losing my license to practice law, or embarrass my son or my father," Schneider said.
Compare that behavior to Bill Lerach's behavior, reported in a recent Joe Nocera column (here). Nocera reports that, in an essay on (see here), "Lerach expresses zero remorse, positions his crimes as having hurt no one while serving a greater good and makes the absurd claim that he was railroaded by his political opponents." Nocera has it completely right when he calls Lerach's essay "a brazen, shameful piece of work."

So we have, on the one hand, an honorable lawyer who worked for free for three months to restore his clients' faith in the justice system and, on the other hand, a dishonorable felon who has cost honest plaintiffs' lawyers so much in terms of credibility. Unfortunately for all of us, the honorable lawyer didn't make national news. I'd love to think that the reason that Schneider's actions didn't make national news is that most lawyers would do exactly what he did: fix the problem, repay the clients--do the right thing. I'll bet that a lot of them would do that. But the Lerachs of this world aren't exactly few and far between, either, and his ilk tap into the stereotype of the lawyer as leech. Shame on you, Bill Lerach--if you can still feel shame.

1 comment:

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