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Former Seyfarth Shaw Partner Given Two Year Suspension
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John Meyers

Summary: A former rainmaker partner for Seyfarth Shaw has been suspended from the practice of law for two years for billing problems with one of his main clients.

A big-time lawyer at Seyfarth Shaw used to bill hundreds of thousands of dollars each month. Now John F. Meyers finds himself with a two-year suspension, according to Law.com.

  
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The veteran lawyer on the labor and employment team had built relationships with 30 clients, helping support the Atlanta office. The former equity partner believes he was directly responsible for $5 million to $6 million in business annually at the firm.

In 2012, things changed for Meyers. One of Seyfarth’s major clients, New Jersey-based manufacturer J.M. Huber Corp., brought up concerns over how Meyers was billing. One of their in-house attorneys went to Seyfarth about their concerns. Soon after, Meyers was questioned at the law firm’s headquarters in Chicago about the issues. He resigned from the firm that same year. He had been with the firm since 1993. They were the ones who reported Meyers to the Georgia bar.

Meyers went on to join Barnes & Thornburg as a partner less than a month after resigning from Seyfarth. He was still with Barnes when the Georgia Supreme Court suspended him last week. It is unclear if Barnes was aware that Meyers left Seyfarth for billing problems.

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He was suspended for professional misconduct in relation to the concerns Huber raised five years ago. As Senior Assistant General Counsel Jonathan Hewett of the Georgia Bar said at a 2015 disciplinary hearing, “A lawyer cannot steal from a client. And that’s just what the evidence will show respondent did by billing Huber for work that was not Huber work.”

Meyers was sending invoices to Huber for work that did not involve the company. The invoices were actually for work he did for private clients of one of Huber’s corporate counsel. Meyers claimed in the 2015 disciplinary counsel that he didn’t do anything wrong, stating that Huber in-house lawyer Michael DiTano assured him it was okay to bill Huber for the work even though they were DiTano’s private clients.



DiTano was facing disciplinary action in Georgia and Florida for his role. He surrendered his license for tricking the company into paying his bills. He, however, died just a couple months ago.

According to a transcript of the ethics hearing, Meyers said, “I trusted Mike. Mike said he had the full blessing of the company, that that was part of his job duties and that it was going to benefit Huber through these form files. It was going to benefit Huber as Huber went into other areas of business.”

In the 2012 press release from Barnes hiring Meyers, managing partner Stuart Johnson said, “As a talented practitioner who is well-connected in the Atlanta business community, John is a perfect fit for us and will play a key role as we continue to strategically enhance and grow those capabilities in this market.

Johnson testified during the hearing that he recruited Meyers. He explained, “John is sort of a prototypical – he’s what a partner should be in a law firm like ours.” He continued to describe Meyers as “unselfish in terms of participating with other folks in helping to grow and nurture and expand our practice. You ask John to do something and the answer is always yes.”

Meyers claimed he was looking to leave Seyfarth before the invoice problem came up. He was looking into six law firms with significant law firms in Atlanta that summer. He had experience as an associate with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in their San Francisco and Newport Beach office carrying him as well.

His attorney, Lester Tate, said during the hearing, “Our position is that John Meyers is an honest guy that did what lawyers in that position do and our defense in this case … is actual innocence. This is not a technical defense. This is a case where John had been dealing with an inside general counsel for a long period of time and he did what the inside general counsel told him to do.”

Barnes stated last week, “The conduct underlying the complaint against Mr. Meyers occurred before he joined. We are committed to providing the best possible service to our clients and, above all, this includes the highest standards of ethical and professional conduct.”

Shouldn’t Meyers have realized that what he was doing was not the right thing? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

To learn more about other suspended attorneys, read these articles:

Meyer Photo: btlaw.com

Seyfarth Logo: chicagotribune.com



 

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