When it comes to crooked colleagues, California lawyers can remain silent at work while they plot their moves.
It doesn’t seem possible.
Last week, three top Southern California lawyers were sentenced to five years each in prison for a scheme to pay off their former client, a man who was seeking millions of dollars from his lawyers for having a bad sexual encounter.
But the three admitted to conspiring to pay the man for his sexual services. The men, all of whom were involved with their firm’s litigation and corporate work, were sentenced by Riverside Superior Court Judge David P. Martin, who presided over the case.
The trial judge in the case was not amused by the lawyers’ shenanigans. In fact, he referred to their legal work as “dishonest” and noted that his goal was to “discipline and prevent future misconduct.”
One of the lawyers had already been convicted and sentenced in a previous bribery scheme in which he paid several people for their work on his personal legal defense. Another lawyer was convicted of using campaign funds for personal expenses and other misdeeds.
In short, the cases were complex and very lucrative and they would have been hard to prove were they not true.
In any case, the defendants’ conduct was not unusual in the legal profession.
“The legal profession is the most crooked profession in America,” said Los Angeles attorney David R. Pinter, the editor of the Los Angeles Times Law Review. “I’m sure there is plenty of evidence of it.”
The law, of course, is a business and there are a variety of ways to make a living while representing clients, including by getting them to pay lawyers for your legal work, by working as a corporate lawyer for a large corporation and, of course, by getting paid by the firm where you work for less per hour in the form of a legal fee.
Many firms have lawyers in their “in-house” and make a practice of having lawyers meet with their partners in the firm to ensure that the firm’s policy is followed and that they don’t wind up doing something unethical in the course of doing their work.
In the state bar association’s rules of professional conduct, lawyers are warned not to become personally involved in conflicts of interest. They are told that their fees should be “fair and reasonable” with a “strict adherence” to the standard of care “that an otherwise