Bad Lawyers

Attorney Suspended for Faking Hours after Wedding Vacation
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Summary: Needing to make up hours after a wedding/honeymoon, one attorney overbilled clients almost $40,000 to meet her yearly quota.

Attorney Mary Jaclyn Cook had a fabulous wedding and honeymoon last December in Hawaii, but there was one hitch. The time she spent away meant that she was going to be short on hours. Her law firm, Faegre Baker Daniels, expected associates to log 1,850 billable hours a year, but she was falling short of meeting that goal. Fearing being fired, she faked her numbers… but got caught.

  
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According to Law.com, the second-year associate left the firm after a supervisor caught a discrepancy with Cook’s time log. Luckily, her clients were not billed for the faked time, which totaled to almost $40,000.

Before Cook’s wedding, the product liability attorney was aware in late November that she was 368 hours shy of the firm’s quota, and she was nervous that she would be fired at the end of the year unless she made up the time. In January 2017, she turned in her time log which included 60 fake entries totally to almost 140 hours.

Cook’s time log stated that she had worked 12 hour days during her wedding and honeymoon trip, and her final yearly time log showed that she had eight hours over the minimum requirement.

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The firm thought the number of Cook’s December hours were odd, and they had confronted her before they had sent out December’s bills to clients. Cook resigned from the law firm in January, and she and the Colorado Attorney Regulation Counsel agreed to a nine-month suspension.

Cook said in her stipulation that she was responsible for her misconduct and that she was “embarrassed” by her action.



“As someone who has excelled her entire life and set high expectations for herself, words cannot express her feelings of shame and regret,” Cook said.

Cook is represented by Alec Rothrock of Burns, Figa & Will. Law.com stated that both parties did not comment for the story.

A spokesperson for Faegre Baker Daniels said that not meeting a yearly billable hours quota is not necessarily a fireable offense.

“We communicate regularly with associates on the standards and competencies by which they are evaluated, and offer many resources to help our lawyers build successful careers,” the firm said. “[Faegre Baker Daniels] also provides numerous outlets for associates who are concerned about their volume of work—high or low—including advisors, supervising partners, group leaders, office leaders and talent professionals.”

In Cook’s stipulation, she said that she was fearful of termination after a meeting with her supervisor Heather Perkins. In response, Perkins said that she had thought she was reassuring, not pressuring.

Regardless of whatever sentiment was shared in that meeting, Cook felt that she needed to lie. However, her scheme was immediately red flagged by Perkins who spotted Cook logging 175 billable hours for one client, which was more than what she usually logged for all of her clients in one month.

In January, Cook was called into a meeting, and she was notified about the discrepancy. Cook at first said that the hours were “legitimate,” but she later resigned.

Source: Law.com

What do you think of Mary Jaclyn Cook’s actions? Let us know in the comments below.



 

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