Legal Ethics

New York AG Asks 124 School Districts for Law Firm Payment Info

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Updated: When N.Y. school lawyer Lawrence Reich reportedly said that what he did was common practice, the state attorney general apparently may have been listening.

A dual state and federal investigation concerning Reich, a lawyer in private practice who allegedly “worked” as many as 1,286 days in one year for a total of five school districts while simultaneously serving as their part-time legal counsel, has become much more extensive. Now it isn’t simply the situation of Reich, 67, who reportedly was claimed as a full-time employee for five districts simultaneously, in order to qualify for a pension and health benefits, that’s at issue. The state’s attorney general, Andrew Cuomo, has “requested that all 124 districts on Long Island provide extensive information on their relationships with lawyers and law firms for the past eight years,” according to Newsday.

He is reportedly seeking the names of all attorneys who were paid school district employees while their law firms served as school district counsel, and details of related financial arrangements.

As discussed in a previous post, Reich has said he did nothing wrong and reportedly told Newsday earlier this month that “I followed essentially a practice that was very common among my colleagues in the industry.”

An earlier Newsday article says that 106 of the 124 districts spent $56.9 million in legal fees between 2000 and 2004, with four law firms, including the one with which Reich was formerly a partner, apparently handling a majority of the school district work on Long Island. As the newspaper reports in another article, Reich worked for more than a decade as in-house counsel for the state education department. He left in 1978 to work as a private practitioner specializing in education law.

Additional coverage: “Feds and State Investigate N.Y. Lawyer Who ‘Worked’ 1,286 Days in a Year”

Newsday: “More schools involved in lawyer, pension scandal” “2nd Lawyer Says N.Y. School Districts Often List Legal Counsel as Employees”

Updated at 1:51 p.m., Feb. 26, 2008.

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