Ethics

Lawyer disbarred for secretly referring his law firm's clients to outside lawyers

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A Pennsylvania lawyer has consented to disbarment after his conviction for defrauding his law firm out of $3.4 million by secretly referring its personal injury clients to outside lawyers for a cut of the fees generated.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court disbarred Neil Mittin by consent in a June 11 order, the Legal Profession Blog reports. Mittin had practiced law at Gay Chacker & Mittin for 38 years. The firm is now known as Gay & Chacker.

Mittin pleaded guilty to mail fraud in September 2019 and was sentenced to five years in prison in March, according to prior coverage by Law360.

The government had claimed that Mittin received referral fees of 33% to 40% of contingency fees obtained by the outside lawyers.

The government had alleged that Mittin defrauded his firm out of $4.2 million, but U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson’s judgment ordered restitution of only $3.4 million.

Mittin’s lawyer, Joseph Poluka, said during the sentencing hearing that Mittin began the diversion scheme after his law firm modified his employment agreement, according to Law360. The agreement allowed Mittin to receive a share of fees on his cases only after aggregate fees by the firm for the year exceeded $300,000, Poluka said.

“It was a desperate, frankly stupid, act of self-help. He’ll tell you that it was wrong,” Poluka said.

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