In general I tell people not to be paranoid in their Illinois workers’ compensation cases. Typically if a lawyer isn’t calling you back or is never around it’s just a sign that they are lazy, have too many cases or are taking more vacation than they should.
But then you read about some lawyers who are literally stealing from their clients and I get why some people get nervous. The most recent example was in the Chicago Tribune about a disbarred, disgraced Chicago injury attorney who stole more than $1 million from his clients. This lawyer had a good career with fancy Loop offices that apparently impressed his clients.
Like a lot of lawyers that I come across, he seemed to not like his job and hoped to do something else. Most of these attorneys don’t actually do anything else, but instead become grumpy toward their clients and often don’t give the cases the care that they deserve.
The lawyer in the article, Jordan Margolis, went a step further. He apparently desires to be a comedian and screen writer so he allegedly used client funds to fund his comic career as a character he created, Excuseman. It seems pretty cheesy and lame, but that was his goal.
I have no problem with lawyers who don’t want to be lawyers any more. I do have a BIG problem with those who don’t want to practice law and continue to take on clients. Margolis had the fancy law office and according to the story a big home in Highland Park. The right thing to do would have been to quit being a lawyer, get rid of all of his overhead, sell his fancy house and live within his means. Of course he didn’t do that. Instead he (allegedly) stole from clients including one City of Chicago worker whose case he settled for $375,000.00 without telling the client.
We hear a couple of similar stories every year so if your attorney isn’t calling back or isn’t around, it’s certainly possible that it means your being swindled. More likely than not though it means that you just hired someone who is not the best choice for your case. I’ve never understood how anyone can take more than 24 hours to call someone back. I can’t think of the last time that it took me more than a few hours and in most cases we call back within minutes. Or in the least we’ll shoot you an e-mail to let you know we are with another client, but will call you back whenever we are free.
Margolis was the most brazen allegation that I’ve seen. According to the story he was living in LA at one point and his staff in Chicago didn’t even know that he was done with practicing law. He eventually lost his law license, but it was too late for some clients. I can only imagine how many he didn’t steal from, but whose cases got screwed up.
The best thing you can do if you suspect a Margolis situation is to cut bait and get a new firm. Lazy, mean or indifferent attorneys don’t ever turn it around from my experience. They might not be stealing from you, but with their lack of effort they might as well be.