25
Jul2014

Chicagoland Attorney on Short Leash After Fabricating $69,000 in Receipts

A former Sidley Austin partner, Lee Smolen, admitted to submitting $69,000 in fake taxi cab receipts.  He claims that he did so in order to circumvent the firm’s tight reimbursement policy.  He alleges that he made legitimate expenses in the same amount but it was too burdensome to file reimbursement claims for those expenses. Instead, he filed cab reimbursements because they are simpler than other types of reports. Smolen admitted that he submitted over 800 fabricated cab ride receipts, and has since reimbursed the firm for the falsified expenses.

Sidley Austin forced Smolen to resign two years ago as a result of the fabricated receipt matter. Smolen was a partner at the firm from 2007 to 2012 in the firm’s real estate practice.

Smolen admitted to fabricating the receipts at a recent hearing before the Illinois bar’s disciplinary board.  He claims that he did so in order to save time and focus on substantive work that would actually benefit the firm. Additionally, he would have more time to spend with family.

Perhaps even more surprising is that Mr. Smolen was a registered Certified Public Accountant at one time. Additionally, Smolen allegedly falsely billed clients for services that were not performed.

New Work After Sidley Austin

DLA Piper hired Smolen as a partner in Chicago. The firm told the Illinois disciplinary board that they keep Smolen on a short leash. They carefully review all of his expense reports and his billable hours. Interestingly, he reports between 18 and 167 billable hours at DLA Piper per month. Previously, at Sidley Austin, Smolen recorded nearly 300 per month.

Suspicious Billing to Clients

One thing that attorneys and clients must always keep in mind is that charges to clients should accurately represent work done.  An attorney is not permitted, under the rules of professional conduct, to submit false or exaggerated expenses.  Doing so is obviously unfair to the client. It also can have a negative effect on the stature of lawyers in general.

In Smolen’s case, however, one client that was erroneously billed does not feel Smolen slighted them.  The client, Wells Fargo & Co., stated that they enjoyed working with Smolen and look forward to working with him in the future.

For Additional Questions About Legal Malpractice, Contact Knowledgeable Attorneys

Attorneys should adhere to strict standards when it comes to billing clients, and should never bill clients for services that have not been performed. If you have more questions about legal malpractice or feel you have a legal malpractice case, contact us.

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