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Monday, June 8, 2015

Having sex with a client, in Alabama or elsewhere, can cause a lawyer to wind up in deep ethical doo-doo


Allison Bergman
A partner at a large midwestern law firm has left the firm and had her license suspended in the wake of revelations that she had a sexual relationship with a client.

Yes, in this case, the lawyer was a woman, and the client was a man--but our research indicates the roles usually are reversed. Either way, such relationships apparently happen in the law with alarming frequency, and they often lead to poor outcomes for clients and career derailment for lawyers.

The Web site Above the Law (ATL) broke the story of an attorney-client relationship gone awry in the Midwest. Allison Bergman had spent roughly 15 years at Lathrop Gage, a Kansas City, Missouri, firm with some 320 lawyers. For about 10 years during that time, she had a personal relationship with the president of a company her firm had represented for more than 100 years.

Kansas City Terminal Railway (KCT) started an internal investigation in 2012, firing Bergman and president Chuck Mader at the same time. KCT also terminated its relationship with Lathrop Gage, costing the firm about $400,000 a year. Bergman left the law firm shortly thereafter, and a disciplinary complaint followed.

These sorts of issues seem to erupt at law firms, big and small, all over the country. Here is how a 2012 article at Huffington Post put it:

Reliable numbers are hard to come by, but according to one nationwide survey of attorneys, 7% admitted to personally having a sexual relationship with one or more clients, and 32% admitted to having colleagues who carry on such affairs. It's so common today that there are actually law review articles with titles like "The Legal Profession's Dirty Little Secret"!

The "dirty little secret" definitely extends to Alabama. I am aware of a male lawyer in Shelby County who had an extramarital affair with his Chilton County client in a divorce case. The client had been married to a prominent Central Alabama businessman, and court records indicate she was the victim of infidelity, domestic violence, and other forms of marital misconduct.

In a high-dollar divorce action with the facts on her side, she should have come out of the mess in solid financial shape. Instead, she lost most everything she owned, and the "justice system" treated her in a hideously unconstitutional fashion.

Was the woman targeted for abuse because the legal tribe feared she might reveal damaging information about one of its members?

If that was the case, the tribe was too late because she already has revealed the information to me--in writing.

How can one married lawyer--with a long, documented history of unethical conduct--take advantage of a female client who is on a financial, personal and emotional precipice? What can be the frightening fallout for the client, the one with whom the lawyer is supposed to have a "fiduciary relationship" of supreme trust?

We will examine those questions in a series of upcoming posts.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I bet the real figures are way higher than what they came up with in that national survey.

Ray Ray said...

The lady lawyer would have been fine if she just hadn't cost her firm a $400,000 account.

legalschnauzer said...

I bet you are right, Ray Ray. It's interesting to note that the client/company started the investigation, not the law firm. I doubt the firm ever would have cared as long as the $400,000 grand kept rolling in each year.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure I know the identity of the lawyer from Shelby County in your post. In fact, I would guess about everybody in the legal and law enforcement world in Shelby County knows who this lawyer is. Everybody but his wife, that is.

Margie said...

Divorce lawyers must be the worst about this. I've heard of it happening several times in my social circle, and I'm not all that well connected.

legalschnauzer said...

You'll love this, Margie. I found an article about a divorce lawyer in Minnesota who charged his client $900 for the time they were having sex at a Holiday Inn Express. What a classy guy!


http://abovethelaw.com/2014/03/lawyer-who-billed-client-900-for-sex-reached-for-comment/

Anonymous said...

Wow chilton county is in some deep shit forreal. Always some kinda scandal goin on. God i.gotta get outta this town

Anonymous said...

The client clearly appreciated her briefs. Nothing wrong with that.

Anonymous said...

Schnauzer, you are way behind on the story about the Shelby County divorce lawyer and the Chilton County client. That's been well known for several years. You must not be on top of your game these days.

Anonymous said...

I hear the president of the company wanted to hire her for a permanent position on his personal staff.

Illegal Doxle said...

You know I prefer bitches with eight titties, but she's not bad looking for a White Woman with only two titties. I'd like to see her briefs!

Anonymous said...

It has been my experience that lawyer (lawyers) and ethics are mutually exclusive.

Camel Toe said...

I am some powerful stuff. One encounter with me can cost you millions of dollars. I have kept men worried about the size of their penises since Adam & Eve. The average vagina is only 4.5 inches long & the diameter of a quarter, while the average penis is over 5 inches long with the girth of a half dollar. Physically, the average woman struggles to take all of the average penis & most women really do prefer a smaller penis attached to a man with an above average technique, but they WILL NOT admit this. Female lawyers are not honest, even with themselves. So, they seek and obtain penises which are much too large for them. That's why they are so bitchy. They are in pain from penises which were too large for their equipment & they take it out on everyone else.

Anonymous said...

Montgomery attorney Jay Aughtman has certainly gotten away with "sex with a client." At least Jere Beasley fired him.