Rising to the top of the legal profession requires more than legal acumen. Those who have grasped the brass ring of law firm partnership, whether by opening your own shop or from elevation, know you need coin to accomplish it. That’s right, we’re talking about capital contribution – that is, the amount of money a person needs to contribute before he can become a partner.
Illinois attorney James Thomas Rollins was the subject of a disciplinary action for falsifying records relating to his capital contributions. In 2016, he agreed to start a firm with three other lawyers. Rollins was required to make a capital contribution of $100,000 in exchange for his ownership interest. He had to get a credit for $100k in startup expenses. And, as reported by the ABA Journal, that’s where things go off the rails:
The review board cited the hearing board’s findings that Rollins submitted three falsified invoices showing that he had paid $81,000 in expenses, even though he had actually paid only $18,000 in expenses. According to the ethics charges, this means that Rollins tried to defraud his firm of $63,000.
When a firm partner asked about the invoice, Rollins said he could provide additional documentation. The review board said he then provided two fake checks to show that he had paid the invoice and presented a fictitious bank statement.
His soon-to-be partners called him out on the fake docs, Rollins admitted it, apologized and paid the firm $100K. But there was still the matter of legal ethics, which of course flares up when forging documents.
Ultimately, the Illinois Board of Review decided on a five-month suspension. He accepted mitigating factors which reduced the seriousness of the sanction.
“Whereas [Rollins’] The misconduct was very serious, we believe that – in light of the mitigation in this case – a suspension of five months properly addresses the serious nature of the misconduct,” the review board said.
Mitigating factors include:
• Rollins acknowledged his misconduct, accepted responsibility and expressed genuine remorse.
• Prior to his misconduct in 2017, Rollins had “an unblemished 10-year career in the legal profession”.
• Rollins fully cooperated with the disciplinary process and has consistently admitted wrongdoing.
• Rollins was under stress at the time of the misconduct, which occurred less than eight months ago. He had two children and was struggling to save his marriage.
• Rollins was active in the community, providing selfless services and serving on bar committees.
• Two attorneys testified to Rollins’ good character. One of the attorneys hired Rollins to work at his firm in 2021, saying he trusts Rollins to be an outstanding attorney with an outstanding reputation for truthfulness and truthfulness.
While falsification of documents is a real problem, in light of the above factors, the review board found the suspension to be “fair and reasonable”.
Katherine Rubino is a senior editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot Podcast, and co-host of Thinking Like a Lawyer. AtL tipsters are the best, so please join them. Feel free to email him with any suggestions, questions or comments and follow him on Twitter @kathrin1 or mastodon @[email protected]