• February 3, 2015
Photo by Jonathan Rotondo-McCord

Photo by Jonathan Rotondo-McCord

Following up on yesterday’s story about the contraction of Minnesota’s “Top 25” law firms over the past five years by 224 lawyers (or nearly 10% of the total), I also made a passing reference to the fact that Minnesota lawyers’ economic challenges reverberate from the “Top 25” to “the bottom 20,000,” by which I mean all Minnesota lawyers.

And a petition for discipline released yesterday highlighted a risk that also hit close to home yesterday, the victimization of lawyers hungry for work by internet scammers (see the “Walton Count,” pages 1-12). In the past week, my firm has been the recipient of two internet scams. I might have gotten entangled in the first one if the second one had not hit. The second scheme was so identical to the first one that I wised up (and felt like a fool).

A foreign business creditor with a real business name and apparently an actual name of an executive at that business emailed my firm attaching purported evidence of (1) a contract including a Minnesota choice of law clause and forum selection clause, (2) a purchase order for equipment in excess of $1 million, (3) wiring instructions purporting to show money wired from the creditor to the debtor, and (4) an email exchange with a Minnesota-located business essentially admitting to the debt.  I got two emails two days apart from two separate companies in two separate foreign countries with this identical fact pattern (supposedly involving different Minnesota companies). Both contacts were made through my website. The key to these scams is here:

We request your fees to be deducted from funds sent by [Debtor] and the balance held in your trust till we decide or instruct you on what next to do.

The fake creditor and fake debtor are in cahoots. A bad check is sent. The lawyer-victim thinks it is easy money, forwards the fake creditor the money from the lawyer’s trust account less the lawyer’s contingent fee. The only problem is that the check is a forgery so the cash leaving the lawyer’s trust account will not be coming from the bum check.

The point is that lawyers hungry for work can be vulnerable to scams (linked here is a case that involves a Minnesota law firm who got caught up in a Nigerian scam). Don’t be suckers. In the attached petition, the lawyer’s failure to take reasonable steps to root out the scam are said to have violated Minn. R. Prof. Cond. 1.1 (Competence) and 1.3 (Diligence). The lawyer, Mr. Jeffrey H. Olson, appears to have had quite a few ethical lapses over the years and he seems to be an outlier. Nevertheless, we all have to be on our guard. Always.

 

 

 

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