Biglaw Lawyer Bills 2000+ Hours To Closed Matter… Discipline Committee Unhappy

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The filling times are bad. No one disputes this. But there are still gray areas where a 10 minute phone call can be rounded up or down. Or when a fundamental epiphany strikes during a journey. The point is, there is some acceptable latitude in the billing process and we rely on lawyers as professionals to ethically navigate these questionable waters.

That said, wherever that line is, the billing of more than 2000 hours to a non-existent case would be exceeded.

Illinois Attorneys’ Disciplinary and Registration Commission[1]
published his complaint against Jean-Paul Paleczny, former Lewis Brisbois. Lewis Brisbois has since fired Paleczny for the reasons detailed in the complaint, but for some reason her bio is still available on their website (here’s the screenshot if and when the company is going to take her down). It seems like a big oversight! And yet, the more we delve into the details, it will seem fully predictable.

It all started with a pro bono case representing an inmate in a civil rights lawsuit. After the judge dismissed the inmate’s claims, the partner in the matter wrote to the complainant to inform him that the representation of the company was over.

It was January 3, 2020.

At that point, well …

13. Between January 3, 2020 and December 23, 2020, the Respondent logged 2,061.4 hours on Robinson the case, even though the case had been closed and LBBS’s representation of Robinson had ended. The respondent knew at least on January 21, 2020, the expiration of the 28-day deadline for appealing, that the firm would not appeal the adverse decision on Mr. Robinson’s behalf. In the files created to account for the time he would have spent on the case in 2020, the respondent described the work he did such as drafting, editing and amending a motion for summary judgment . For each day that the Respondent reported working on the Robinson question, he entered a description of his purported legal services and the time he claimed to have spent, each entry being specific to the tenth of an hour. Any time the Respondent spent on the summary judgment motion prior to January 21, 2020 was wasted as the case was dismissed and no appeal was filed. All entries for January 21, 2020 and later were false because the Respondent had not worked on the Robinson question since at least January 21, 2020. The Respondent knew each time that he was recording time at the Robinson between January 21, 2020 and December 23, 2020 that his time entry was wrong.

It’s 2061.4 hours. For some reason point-4 is the funniest part for me.

Obviously the lawyer is going to have the lion’s share of the blame here, but can we take a second to wonder what the hell the firm was doing all this time? They received his timesheets, which for a year continued to show time entries in which he “described the work he had done such as drafting, editing and amending a summary judgment motion.” even though the cabinet had ended the performance. Is there a billing service? Is there a partner who reviews unbilled time? Who was overseeing this? Is there an Assignments Committee that monitors what associates do? How did it last over a month, let alone a year.

Scratch that, over a year. Because for the first five and a half weeks of 2021, he recorded 245.80 hours on the motion for summary judgment. That means he was on track for a 2000 hour year in 2021 as well. Other than the fact that the case was closed, what type of summary judgment motion did the firm think it had been drafting for over a year?

Although dishonest, at least the time billing in a pro bono case does not cheat any customer. Although it would have a tangible impact if the company matches its bonuses to the hours billed.

Guess what Lewis Brisbois is doing ?!

14. In 2020, LBBS awarded quarterly bonuses to associates who met an annual “billable hour” requirement. For each quarter in 2020, the Respondent falsely billed sufficient hours to the Robinson question of demonstrating that it would meet the annual billable hour requirement. Based on these misrepresentations, LBBS paid the Respondent a bonus each quarter totaling $ 12,000 for the year.

Partners who have not had their passion to help the oppressed systematically crushed by the firm but still complain when firms cap the number of hours that count for bonuses at 100 or 200. It is a miserable policy that penalizes lawyers who attempt to fulfill their professional obligations. But this is where we can’t have beautiful things.

In a final case of truly astonishing courage and determination, the complaint indicates that two associates and a director confronted him about the state of the matter in February and he went ahead and told them he was working on the summary judgment motion. That’s epic levels of nerve.

Lest this story improve for the lawyer:

21. After the Respondent was terminated from LBBS, he began to look for other employment. Respondent interviewed with at least four Chicago law firms. During the interview process, each of these law firms questioned the Respondent about the circumstances surrounding his departure from LBBS. Each time, the Respondent told the law firm he was interviewing that LBBS had laid him off because LBBS did not have enough work to maintain his job.

22. The Respondent’s statements to the law firms he spoke to were false because the Respondent was not laid off because LBBS did not have enough work to maintain his job. Rather, the Respondent was terminated on February 11, 2021 by LBBS for the misconduct described in Count I, above.

In his defense, this is a hoax that would be easy enough to pull off when the old company still hasn’t deleted their profile. Frankly, he was generous in admitting that he had left Lewis Brisbois – he could have plausibly introduced himself as still working there and linked to his biography and no one would have been wiser.

In any event, this is a truly remarkable model of fact, and one which should encourage Lewis Brisbois to seriously rethink his protocols. Because dishonesty is hard to cope with, but dishonesty at the level of these allegations should be impossible to escape from the goalkeeper.


[1] Should we put a parenthesis before starting to call it IARDC? Wait, SCOTUS even stopped doing that? Astonishing!

Head shotJoe Patrice is editor-in-chief at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe is also the Managing Director of RPN Executive Search.


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