Legal Ethics

Disbarred After $1.48M Alleged BigLaw Billing Fraud, Ex-Attorney Faces Uphill Reinstatement Battle

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Gary and Maureen Fairchild made headlines in the 1990s when the high-profile BigLaw couple were accused of bilking their respective law partners of more than $2 million through collusive law firm billing fraud at the same time that the two Chicago lawyers were legally taking home hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. He, at the time, was managing partner of Winston & Strawn; she was an income partner at Chapman and Cutler.

Convicted of related crimes and disbarred, they divorced and haven’t been in the news much in recent years. But now Maureen Fairchild, known as Maureen F.X. Walsh, is seeking reinstatement to the Illinois bar. Rejected when she sought admission in Idaho, where she raised her children and is currently living, she has now received a negative response from Illinois authorities concerning her effort to seek reinstatement here, according to the Legal Profession Blog.

Although she has made a number of positive changes, was supported in her petition by multiple well-regarded character witnesses and has apparently lived a blameless life since she paid her debt to society, working as a paralegal and at low-wage jobs, a hearing panel of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission recommended against reinstatement.

“Among the things we must consider in evaluating petitioner’s request to be reinstated is the impact of her conduct on the legal profession, the public and the administration of justice. Petitioner’s misconduct was of enormous proportions,” the panel wrote in a report (PDF) yesterday.

“To allow petitioner to be reinstated at this time would deprecate the seriousness of her misconduct and significantly devalue the importance of restoring the confidence of the public in the legal profession, and in the administration of justice.”

Related coverage:

Chicago Tribune (1994): “Former Lawyer Sentenced For Fraud”

Chicago Tribune (1994): “Partner In Winston & Strawn Is Ousted”

New York Times (1994): “A Theft Scandal Ravages a Career At a Leading American Law Firm”

Hofstra Law Review (2002): “The Slippery Slope from Ambition to Greed to Dishonesty: Lawyers, Money, and Professional Integrity”

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