26th Street Bar Association and Bad Court Thingy both wrote about an Illinois lawyer, who’s been suspended from the practice of law for 15 months for accepting $534 worth of nude dances as partial payment for $7,000 worth of legal fees in 2001 and 2002.
The Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission found that agreeing to give a current client credit against her legal bills in exchange for performing striptease dances for him (which the lawyer admitted) was “reprehensible in and of itself.”
If that were all this case was about, it’d make a good story (the story that you’ve read about); I’d be writing about the prudishness of the IARDC, how it was interfering with the client’s ability contract with counsel, and how there should be no legal distinction between plying one’s lawful trade in exchange for money that is then exchanged for legal services, and a barter transaction like this one, however imprudent.
I’d also probably be musing about whether the lawyer declared the value of the dances on his taxes.
But, as is often the case, there’s more to the story.
The 15-month suspension was not for the contractual arrangement, but rather for “repeatedly touch[ing] [the client] in a sexual manner without her consent, while he was representing her.” The punishment was based on another Illinois lawyer’s suspension in a 2004 case involving nonconsensual sexual touching by a lawyer. In fact, the Commission did not increase the lawyer’s punishment for his ill-advised fee arrangement, noting, “In performing dances for [the lawyer], [the client] was doing the same thing that she did routinely in her chosen occupation.” Or, as the client said, “If
it was dancing, I have no problem with dancing. I love dancing and I love –
that’s my job, but you took it a lot further than that . . . .”
For the unconventional commercial arrangement between the lawyer and his client that has the blawgosphere atwitter, fifteen months’ suspension would have been overkill. For the sexual assault that the Commission believed he had committed, it’s not.