BigLaw associate suspended for severely overbilling after honeymoon

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Due to severely inflating her billable hours, a former associate in the US has not only ended her BigLaw career but has also been suspended from the practice of law.

Mary Jaclyn Cook, a former associate at Faegre Baker Daniels in Denver, has agreed to be suspended for nine months after she inflated the time she had worked after returning in December last year from a two-week Hawaiian honeymoon, the American Bar Association said.

Cook was short of Faegre’s 1,850 annual billable-hour target, Am Law Daily said. To make up for the deficit, she billed 21 workdays in December, including a 12-day period where she billed more than 15 hours each day. That period included back-to-back 18- and 19-hour days.

The publication said that Heather Perkins, the firm’s Denver products liability practice head, noticed the unusual billing after Cook billed a single client for 175 hours, more than what she averaged for all of her clients in a single month.

The inflated billable hours cost nearly US$40,000, the American Bar Association said.

Faegre said in a statement to Am Law Daily that failure to meet hours isn’t even a basis for dismissal from the firm.

“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 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,” the firm said.

However, Cook first claimed the hours were legitimate. She later admitted to inflating the hours and agreed to the suspension as a lawyer.

Faegre is 68th in the “Am Law 100” list of biggest firms in the US by gross revenue. The firm had 670 lawyers, gross revenues of US$489m, revenue per lawyer of US$745,000, and profits per partner of US$800,000 in the last year, according to The American Lawyer. Faegre lists 370 partners on its website.


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