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Extortion Is Not the Way to Win Clients

By George Khoury, Esq. on January 07, 2019 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

When it comes to making rain, forcing it via illegal means and methods is not a risk worth taking. And while this seems like common sense to the lay and lawyers alike, apparently one politician allegedly doesn't think like everyone else.

A Chicago Alderman allegedly attempted to extort Burger King into steering legal work to his private firm, via using his official powers as a government official. And now, after Burger King let him have it their way, he's facing federal charges.

When It Rains ...

Alderman Edward Burke, despite maintaining his innocence, seems to be under intense heat, though he is not being held in custody pending trial.

He was recorded boldly asking Burger King representatives to steer work towards his firm, and to make a political contribution to another candidate, in exchange for getting a stop work order lifted on one of the company's restaurants that was being remodeled in Burke's district. The kicker, the stop work order was issued despite there being a proper permit in place, and was lifted almost immediately after the company pledged to steer work to Burke's firm.

Unfortunately for Burke, his alleged methods of making rain are about as unsound as methods come, perhaps second only to kidnapping a client's dog and demanding billable hours as a ransom. Burger King didn't comply, but rather contacted the authorities.

Extorted Clients Will Still Complain

Simply put, lawyers shouldn't even remotely consider a whopper of a scheme, like extortion, to get new work, particularly if those methods would violate ethical rules, or state or federal laws. Additionally, like Burke is learning the hard way, clients being put in that sort of a situation can easily flip the script on the lawyer trying to bully them.

The bedrock of any good lawyer-client relationship (apart from reasonable rates and timely payments) is trust and cooperation. Extortion or other less-than-honest schemes to get new clients or big clients should not ever merit consideration.

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