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News Briefs--Three Things You Shouldn't Do

Vivia Chen

March 10, 2011

Handcuff Part of our mission at The Careerist is to steer you away from trouble. Here are some cautionary tales from recent news about what you should not do:

1. Don't mess with the IRS: Former McGuire Woods partner Michelle Renee Walker admitted giving a fake IRS document to the firm's general counsel that said that her partnership payments were no longer subject to a levy, reports The National Law Journal. (She owed $110,000 in federal income taxes.) Walker now faces a statutory maximum of three years in federal prison and a fine of $5,000 for forging the IRS document.

2. Don't be obvious about marrying for money: It's always okay to marry for money, but you might be jeopardizing your license if there are heirs who will likely challenge the legitimacy of the marriage. Reports the San Francisco Chronicle (hat tip: ABA blog): California state court judge Pat McElroy ruled that lawyer Linda Lowney be suspended from practice for entering a sham marriage with her client.

Lowney's relationship with her client, Thor Tollefsen, started in 2002, when he hired her to draft a will that left his estate to his sister and two nieces. By 2005, "the 54-year-old California attorney had become involved with Tollefsen, 85," reports the ABA. He gave her $339,000, and they married in January 2006. Later that year, Tollefsen asked for a divorce; in 2007 he entered a nursing home and died. (Tollefsen's neices sued Lowney, and the case was settled, according to the Chronicle.)

The Chronicle reports that Judge Elroy noted that "many of Tollefsen's financial records were found to be shredded." Though Lowney had a clean record with the California bar, the judge ruled that she "took advantage of a lonely, sick old man."

Lowney's lawyer, Jonathan Arons, told the Chronicle: "I think [the court] misunderstood the relationship."

3. Don't trade on inside information. When will lawyers learn that insider trading is just not cool? The latest lawyer to be charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission is former Dewey & LeBoeuf associate Todd Leslie Treadway. According to Nate Raymond at the NLJ, the SEC says that Treadway worked in Dewey's New York office, and made a measly $27,000 in profits by trading Accredited Home Lenders Holding Co. and CNET Networks Inc. stock based on information he got at Dewey. (He made the alleged trades in 2007 and 2008, according to the SEC.) Treadway's attorney did not respond to the NLJ's request for comment.

As the NLJ reminds us, "Treadway is the latest associate at a major law firm caught in an insider trading investigation after misusing internal information about deals. Two associates in New York at Ropes & Gray, Arthur Cutillo and Brien Santarlas, pleaded guilty after being charged by federal prosecutors in 2009 in a wide-ranging insider trading investigation for passing along tips about deals the firm was working on in exchange for kickbacks." Another lawyer, Melissa Mahler, a former Nixon Peabody associate in Rochester, N.Y., also pleaded guilty last year to making illegal trades.

 C'mon, people--can we grow a brain?


Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? E-mail The Careerist's chief blogger, Vivia Chen, at [email protected]

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: [email protected]

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