2 former BigLaw associates get suspensions for inflating hourly records

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The Illinois Supreme Court has suspended two former BigLaw associates who were accused of inflating the time that they spent on cases.

John Paul Paleczny, a Chicago lawyer who is a former associate at Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, got the tougher suspension. He is suspended for one year and must successfully complete a professionalism seminar, according to an online summary at the website of the Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission.

Paleczny was accused in a June ethics complaint of recording more than 2,000 annual hours on a closed pro bono case, earning a $12,000 bonus as a result. He agreed to the suspension, which takes effect Oct. 14.

Paleczny was fired in February 2021 after admitting that he was recording time on the case, even though it had been tossed, the ethics complaint alleged. Paleczny was representing a federal inmate who said he lost his prison job as an orderly in the law library after he complained about a new library policy.

After his firing, Paleczny interviewed with at least four Chicago law firms, falsely saying he was laid off from Lewis Brisbois because he did not have enough work to do, the ethics complaint alleged.

In the other ethics case, a former Reed Smith associate was suspended from law practice for 60 days after she was accused of inflating her billing records on a document review project.

The former associate, Stephanie Alexandra Gerstetter, submitted false billing records totaling 86.4 hours, according to the Illinois State Bar Association, resulting in an overcharge of more than $40,000 to a law firm client, according to an online summary. The law firm refunded the client’s overpayment.

Gerstetter agreed to the suspension, which takes effect Oct. 14.

Law360 covered the initial ethics complaint filed against Gerstetter in June.

The complaint alleged that the time that Gerstetter entered into the billing system for the document review project was greater than the time recorded on Relativity, the program used to analyze and code digital documents. The times should have been about the same, the complaint said.

Gerstetter didn’t immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment. A woman who answered the phone number listed for Paleczny by the Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission said the contact information was incorrect, and she didn’t know who he was.

Hat tip to the Legal Profession Blog, which noted the case summaries.

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