Lawyer Lied to Partners about Billable Hours; Faces 18-Month Suspension

A Wisconsin lawyer named Matthew Siderits was is facing the Wisconsin Supreme Court over a potential 18-month suspension from practicing law due to having lied to his former law firm partners about billable hours he reported. Mr. Siderits was working for the law firm of Otjen, Van Ert & Weir when, as the firm’s treasurer, he reported more than 1,800 hours for at least two years, then scaled back the hours on the clients’ bills after he had been paid his bonuses for those years. The question before the court now is whether the referee’s recommended 18-month suspension is appropriate given the fact that Siderits paid back $60,000 in bonuses to the firm.

The Wisconsin Office of Lawyer Regulation argued that the suspension is reasonable given Siderits’ breach of fiduciary duty to his former firm, and what must have been the knowledge that Siderits was engaged in theft.

Siderits argued that not only did he pay back the firm $60,000, but he was never focused on the 1,800 hour threshold and the adjustments and retained bonuses were just innocent mistakes.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court held oral argument on the matter on Thursday, October 4, 2012. You can watch the argument and decide for yourself whether Siderits was sufficiently punished, or whether the proposed suspension is appropriate. Does it matter whether he was acting rightly by adjusting the clients’ bills? Was simply paying back the firm sufficient?

(photo: Shutterstock: 32527528)

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