Legal Ethics

Prominent Lawyer Disbarred re Claimed $800K In Client Loans Says He's Now a Busy Legal Consultant


A prominent Missouri lawyer who once served as president of the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association has been disbarred by consent.

James C. Wirken, 68, was accused of taking out loans from clients without adequately advising them of the fairness of the transactions, urging them to get independent legal counsel or getting their informed written consent, the Kansas City Star reports.

“The money ‘borrowed’ from the seven clients, not taking into account any accrued interest, totals in the neighborhood of $800,000,” states a report to the Missouri Supreme Court by the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel. “Virtually none of the money, much less any interest, has been repaid.”

Wirken told the newspaper that he has repaid or will repay all of his clients.

Among other claimed client transactions, the OCDC alleged in charges filed in August that Wirken borrowed $120,000 from a client that left the man unable to satisfy a judgment in case the lawyer handled, the Kansas City Business Journal reports.

Another client allegedly made loans to the Wirken Law Group and a development company in which the attorney had an interest that were personally guaranteed by Wirken. Two years ago, the client reportedly got a $940,844 judgment against Wirken and his firm.

An audit following a 2010 bank report that Wirken had overdrawn his trust account allegedly revealed multiple occasions when he had misused client money.

The court issued its disbarment order Friday.

Wirken, who described the loan issues as his failing to jump through all the hoops to deal with ” a couple of i’s that needed dotting and t’s that needed crossing,” said he has converted his law practice into a consulting firm that advises attorneys on litigation.

“I’m busier now than I was before, but I don’t have to put up with the baloney,” he told the Star.

Related coverage:

Kansas City Business Journal (April 2011): “Lawyer Jim Wirken leaves McDowell Rice Smith & Buchanan because of client conflicts”

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