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More Than 50,000 Reasons Not to Take Fees on the Side

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

Carllene Placide had a good gig, but that deal expired.

She was a partner at Dorsey & Whitney, a big law firm, pulling down a base salary of $225,000 a year. Apparently dissatisfied with her non-equity status, she started doing legal jobs on the side.

That violated firm policy, and led to her termination. She refused to pay back more than $50,000 for the outside work, and that led to the end of her career.

"Intrapartnership Dispute"

What started as a bad decision turned into bad character, according to disciplinary reports. Placide got another job after her firing, but lied about her past.

Bad turned to worse when she resumed her practice of collecting outside fees without telling her firm. When the firm confronted her and filed an ethics complaint, Placide admitted she had taken about $10,000 in fees.

But in her disciplinary case, Placide said the fees issue was an "intrapartnership dispute." The Washington Supreme Court rejected her argument and said she stole the fees.

"We now hold that engaging in extensive and repeated theft of firm funds is sanctionable attorney conduct, regardless of whether an attorney is an associate, a partner, or a shareholder," the court said and disbarred Placide.

Still Disputing

Placide told the ABA Journal she will petition the U.S. Supreme Court. She said she had a contract dispute with her employers.

"If it's a contract dispute, my matter had no place before the bar association," she said. Placide also denied that she stole any fees.

"There was no theft, there was no criminal action filed against me because I didn't steal anything," she said.

Of course, she will have to make any arguments in court on her own behalf because she can't practice law anymore.

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