Law Firms

Ethics Expert Defends Quick Firing of Partner Accused of $1M Overbilling Theft

Greenberg Traurig quickly fired a partner criminally charged with theft on Friday for allegedly billing $1 million for work never performed.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. An ethics expert interviewed by the Chicago Tribune, Georgetown University law professor Michael Frisch, said Greenberg Traurig was acting responsibly to protect the firm and clients of the accused lawyer, Mark McCombs.

Prosecutors claim McCombs overbilled the suburban village of Calumet Park by charging more than $1 million since 2003 for work that wasn’t done, all in an effort to gain prestige. McCombs did not directly pocket the fees.

When lawyers get into trouble, Frisch told the Tribune, “There’s usually one of two reactions” at their law firms. “They either circle the wagons or kick him out.”

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog highlights law firm reactions in a couple other cases. Mayer Brown put partner Joseph Collins on leave when he was accused of helping a client defraud investors. Collins resigned after he was convicted in what the judge says was a matter of excessive loyalty to a client. Ropes & Gray, on the other hand, fired an associate accused of insider trading.

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