Syracuse area lawyers received two black eyes this weekend. The Syracuse Post Standard reports that a Syracuse bankruptcy lawyer, Christopher Chadick, was convicted of defrauding many of his clients. He was found guilty of one of the oldest switch-and-bate tricks in the book — taking a customer’s money up front and then failing to deliver the product. In his case, he took retainer fees to file bankruptcy petitions and then didn’t do the work and didn’t return the money, either.
In a separate case, a Baldwinsville lawyer, David Pelland, was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for conspiring to commit mail fraud. The facts are someone complicated, so I won’t go into them here. What struck me about this case, though, was that this is Pellard’s second felony conviction — he was convicted in 1994 for concealment of bankruptcy assets. I guess some folks never learn.
As a fellow lawyer, I take these stories to heart. Lawyers — especially personal injury lawyers like myself — already suffer from a negative public image rivaled only by used car salesmen and politicians. (A letter directed to the editor of a local newspaper from an insurance industry professional not long ago referred to us as “bottom feeders”.) More bad publicity for lawyers is not needed.
Yet some of the “bad” image is part and parcel of the job. We are bound to make enemies, especially among insurers and corporations, if we zealously pursue our injured clients’ rights to compensation from those who carelessly caused their losses. As a Central New York and Syracuse personal injury lawyer, I fight with insurance companies and big businesses every day for my clients’ rights. And those folks have big bucks to fight back. So I don’t just make enemies; I make powerful enemies. And they spend millions of dollars every year lobbying Albany to get rid of me, and of my clients’ claims, by so-called “tort reform legislation” (Which I call “tort deform legislation”).
Hey, I don’t mind making enemies. If I did, I wouldn’t have chosen to become a Central and Syracuse New York personal injury lawyer. I would have gone into house closings or mediation work. But these stories about lawyers-gone-bad just pile more trash on the garbage heap of the legal profession’s public image.
So fellow lawyers, do me a favor: Do your job zealously, thoroughly, but honestly and ethically. Thank you.
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you!
Michael G. Bersani, Esq.
Central NY Personal Injury Lawyer Michaels & Smolak, P.C.