As regular readers know, attorney’s fees, legal ethics and the Virginia State Bar are a regular part of the discussion here on VaQuiTamLaw.com.
I have therefore followed with some interest the curious case of Glenn Lewis, a former leading Virginia lawyer who wound up on the wrong side of the Virginia State Bar. In fact, a few weeks ago I did a post about lawyers who request their opposing counsel’s fee information as part of a fee-shifting dispute, and I thought about discussing Mr. Lewis’ case then. At that point however there was no resolution, but now that the final chapter has been written by the Virginia State Bar I think it should be of interest.
Perhaps not surprisingly, one rarely sees a lawyer from the top ranks of the profession in trouble with the state bar; for that reason alone Mr. Lewis’ case is of interest. Leading lawyers throughout the Commonwealth are calling it a “tragedy of Greek proportions” and things like that…perhaps we will never know the full story, but here is what we do know.
Glenn Lewis was a leading Virginia lawyer. When I say “a leading lawyer” I mean he had attained many of the accolades that distinguish a member of this profession. He served as Virginia Bar Association president in 2007 and received a lifetime achievement award from the VSB’s family law section in 2004; he was a member of the Virginia State Bar Council and the Virginia State Bar’s Special Committee on Access to Legal Services. He also served as president of the Fairfax Bar Association in 1995-96…
And of course he made lots of money — and he bragged about it, stating in an interview that at $850 per hour he was one of the most expensive lawyers in Washington, D.C.
Then, just as in a Greek Tragedy things took a turn for the worse….
In 2009, his firm filed a lawsuit against a former client for failing to pay close to $500,000.00 in fees. The defendant in that case put on a vigorous defense, and sought discovery of ALL of Mr. Lewis’ billing records for the relevant periods.
The results were unflattering to say the least…it turns out that Mr. Lewis was so incredible he was able to bill more than 24 hours in a day.
And then it just got worse. He closed his law offices in Washington and Fairfax, and when he didn’t respond to some of the bar complaints, his law license was suspended. A bank foreclosed on his house in Oakton, and another bank sought $890,000 for repayment of a $1 million loan.
Bar complaints were of course in the mix at that point, and when Lewis failed to answer several of them honestly, things got critical.
The VSB board found that Lewis had violated rules concerning reasonable fees, communications with clients, diligence, safekeeping of funds, cooperation with bar investigations, wrongful acts and dishonesty or fraud. As a result, he lost his law license…