Billing Fraud: Past, Present . . . and Future?

Now that LPR has been established, we are receiving information from interested people about issues legal consumers face.  One such person sent us a link to an article published in 1999, written by Catholic University law professor Lisa Lerman, titled Blue-Chip Bilking: Regulation of Billing and Expense Fraud by Lawyers.  This article was written in 1999, and today these things are still happening: “padding, manipulating and fabricating” billings.

Here is an excerpt from Professor Lerman’s article:

In recent years, a disturbing number of well-respected lawyers in large established firms have been caught stealing large amounts of money from their clients and their partners by padding, manipulating and fabricating time sheets and expense vouchers. 3 Some have gone to prison, been disbarred, and/or been fired. 4 Others have escaped prosecution or discipline. 5 It used to be that lawyers inclined to steal from their clients wrote checks to themselves from their client trust accounts without client authorization and without having earned the money. Trust account fraud still occurs, but in recent years, theft from clients and from partners through billing and expense fraud has become more common and more pervasive.

These issues have been on the radar screen at least as far back as 1991 when John Grisham published his novel, The Firm.  In the novel, Mitch McDeere (Tom Cruise’s character in the 1993 movie) brings down the firm by exposing its practice of fraudulent billing.  But John Grisham’s The Firm wasn’t just fiction.  And, in 2012, these things are still going on.

In May of 2012, the Administrator of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission filed a complaint against an attorney for “false billing”:

Between June 13, 2011 and June 30, 2011, Respondent was involved in reviewing documents for a project involving a client of the firm’s. During that time, Respondent recorded a total of 37.5 hours on the project. In July and August of 2011, Respondent performed little or no work on the client matter, but recorded 83.3 and 177.1 hours, respectively, on the matter.

If you want to read more, here is a link to the Complaint: http://www.iardc.org/12PR0052CM.html

So, legal consumers, herein lies a cautionary tale.   Over billing, false billing and/or fraudulent billing happens more than you think and few are called to task.  A smart legal consumer recognizes this and takes steps to protect themselves.

If you or someone you know has had similar experiences we are eager to hear from you. In the next few weeks, we will be talking more about how consumers can protect themselves.

You’ve got options.  The Center for Legal Practice Reform can help you navigate the attorney/client relationship and level the playing field.  Call LPR today for a free consultation – (301) 351-7970. 

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Center for Legal Practice Reform
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