Solo/Small Firms

Michigan Solo Learns the Hard Way About Himself and the Law


Before Michael Burke can reverse the revocation of his law license, he must pay back the $1.6 million he stole from clients. Except it’s all gone now—blown on blackjack and slot machines.

Once a Howell, Mich., solo practitioner, Burke pleaded guilty to embezzlement in 2001 and spent almost three years in prison. He’s been on parole since his release in January 2004. As a condition of his release, Burke can’t enter a casino, or have a checking or credit card account. If he wants to leave Michigan, he first must get permission from his parole officer.

The year he surrendered his license, Burke was one of 904 lawyers to be disbarred by state disciplinary groups. Since then, according to ABA surveys, about 4,000 lawyers each year have been publicly sanctioned—disbarred, suspended or censured.

But Burke, now 62, is also among those who view losing their law license as a good thing: a wake-up call to come to grips with bad habits, a chance to refocus on family, an opportunity to reclaim their own life. … Continue reading

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