Leon Gelfgatt, a Boston Solo, thought that being a solo practitioner was not lucrative enough--no secret to most attorneys. So, to supplement his income, Mr. Gelfgatt decided to start recording fraudulent liens against properties that were about to be sold. When time came for the property to change hands, the new mortgagee had to pay the existing secured lien holder at the closing table. As first in line, Mr. Gelfgatt showed up to receive his due--thereby screwing the legitimate mortgagee. Way to use you legal expertise, Mr. Gelfgatt! Mr. Gelfgatt was figured out after making about a million dollars off of several properties. Gelfgatt pleaded not guilty and was held on $1 million cash bail by Cambridge District Court Judge Roanne Sragow-Licht.
I can't say I don't understand his logic. Banks are so overwhelmed with all of the distressed properties, properties in short sale and foreclosure--they might not notice a million dollar shortfall. Or maybe he thinks that is the cost of his license to practice the law? Or it could be that he was a desperate solo who wasn't making enough money?
I know that illegality is not endemic to solo practitioners. But they certainly do get caught more than guys at the white glove firms. Aside from that, solos are put under the magnifying glass by the state bar associations more so than the big wigs. Although, I have no intention of being a crook... it's enough to make me scratch my head and wonder whether being a solo is a viable option. Will I be tempted to co-mingle my clients funds with my own to pay for my bar dues? Will I feel the need to guarantee results in order to land a client? Will I have to give a short term loan to a client who needs the money NOW so that they won't fire me and go onto the next firm who will? These are issues that we studied in Legal Ethics. These are also issues that I saw when I worked at small law firms. I'm just wondering if it's possible to NOT starve as a solo, and to follow the rules.
As one commentator on the article said:
Its so much easier to go the usual route: just create phony billing and have a specially assigned judge help fleece the clients. The scam is foolproof, and there's no no risk of jail time.
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