If you have a television and have lived in the Chicago area in the last 20 years, chances are that you’ve seen a commercial of “Dad’s Rights” lawyer Jeffery Leving. He has been accused of unethical conduct by the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC). The ARDC is the state organization that licenses and disciplines attorneys.
Few things before we get to the allegations:
- He should be assumed innocent until the hearing is over. While I have heard rumblings of the things he’s accused of, I have no direct evidence and like anyone else he’s entitled to the presumption of innocence.
- I’m posting the allegations as a general warning to the public to make sure to go over your lawyer’s bill.
- In my opinion, “Fathers Rights” or “Mothers Rights” is mostly marketing. That’s not to say that some situations don’t favor mothers over fathers. That can absolutely happen. But generally speaking, in my opinion, it’s a marketing strategy.
All that said, Leving is accused by the ARDC of what I believe is significant unethical conduct. He’s the one accused as he’s head of the firm and had supervisory authority over the staff. The whole report can be read here but here are some of the points that stood out to me:
8. At Respondent’s direction, the Leving Firm’s intake attorney, to retain clients for
the Leving Firm, often told prospective clients that their legal matters could be resolved within the amount of the time covered by the initial retainer they agreed to pay the Leving Firm. The Leving Firm’s intake attorneys often told prospective clients that they would be the attorney primarily responsible for handling their legal matters and did not advise those clients that their involvement in any matter in the Leving Firm was limited to the intake stage only. The Leving Firm’s intake
attorneys also did not advise those prospective clients that their legal matters would be handled on what Respondent referred to in his fee contract as “a team concept basis,” and that multiple attorneys would immediately begin billing on the clients’ legal matters and quickly deplete their initial retainers.
9. Every time a new client retained the Leving Firm, firm policy, as set by Respondent, required that a meeting be held about the new client matter between the intake attorney, the managing attorney, Jeffery Paustian (the Leving Firm’s legal administrator), the mentee attorney to whom the case would be assigned, as well as that mentee’s mentor. All four attorneys bill separately for their time spent attending this initial meeting.
10. At all times alleged in this complaint, Respondent required that the Leving Firm’s attorneys charge their clients a minimum billing increment for non-court time of 0.3 hours, or 18 minutes.
11 . At all times related to this complaint, Respondent required that the Leving Firm’s attorneys charge their clients a minimum billing increment for court time of 1.0 hours, or 60 minutes.
12. At all times related to this complaint, Respondent required that when mentees at the Leving Firm went to court, they were to be accompanied by their mentors, regardless of the nature of the court appearance, and at Respondent’s direction each attorney charged the client for at least one hour of time for the court appearance regardless of its actual length.
13. At all times alleged in this complaint, at Respondent’s direction, in almost all cases the firm handled, the Leving Firm also utilized the services of a private detective, Wayne Halick (“Halick”), for investigative services. Halick billed the firm at a rate of between $190 to $200 per hour, depending on the year, which the Leving Firm charged against its clients’ retainers.
According to the complaint, the ARDC is making allegations related to eight separate matters where the Leving firm is accused over billing. Most of the allegations accuse them of doing it in a manner laid out in 8-13 above.
Again, I have no proof that he did anything wrong and as of now these are just allegations. That said, the allegations are very serious, especially the double billing and over-billing for time. And while many firms I know use private detectives, they certainly aren’t required on every case. And I know of no other firm that would bill more than one lawyer’s time for a routine court appearance. It’s not the job of the client to pay for a firm to train someone.
This complaint was only filed January 27, 2023. Leving will have a chance to answer the complaint and might possibly have a hearing some day. Punishment, which would likely be a long time away, can range from nothing all the way to being disbarred.
My advice to anyone hiring a lawyer is to get in writing at the beginning of the case how they will charge you, what time will be billed, how many lawyers will be working on the case and what’s a reasonable estimate for how much the case will cost. Also ask for monthly itemized statements so you can address the costs if they get out of control.