Tuesday, November 03, 2009

A Lawyer's Meteoric Collapse Sends No Shockwaves

I never met Scott Rothstein. He ducked out a few minutes before our lunch a few years ago. His secretary telling me and his colleague, who set up the lunch: "he went to lunch." There was no further inquiry as we were not entitled to even be standing by his office, an "off-limits" area of the firm. Instead I went to lunch with some other lawyers in the firm who felt they needed to take pity on me for my wasted 40 minute drive, all of them telling me in response to the unprofessional behavior of their king: "I'm not surprised." "That's Scott."

It was hard not to follow the career of Scott Rothstein and his firm. They were everywhere, sponsoring everything. Charities, foundations, the South Florida Business Journal who enjoyed large advertising revenues and event sponsorship revenues for their "who's the best" this month ass-slapping luncheons, sports stadiums, everywhere.

Over the last year or so the chatter of how this firm, in this recession, was not only surviving but thriving like no other 7 year old firm, got louder.

Lawyers continued to flock to the firm.

Yesterday a legal marketer asked me why these lawyers "didn't do the math."

I responded that today's lawyer doesn't do the math beyond the paycheck.

Today's lawyer doesn't want to know that the average lawyer srtuggles to make $100,000 a year. A good lawyer, makes several hundred thousand dollars a year. Very few make seven figures. A miniscule amount hit the jackpot.

That's reality.

But there's no personal benefit to taking a hard look into how an employment lawyer who started a small firm 7 years ago now owns tens of millions of dollars in homes, leases a jet, owns several six figure cars, and has round the clock bodyguards.

Just give me the check.

I don't know if Rothstein stole the 100-200 million dollars rumored to be missing. I don't know if he committed a crime. I know he sent an email asking what countries do not have extradition treaties with the United States, and is rumored to be in one of those countries. I don't presume him guilty, I do presume him highly careless for sending that email. A search for his name on CNN.com doesn't serve him well either.

The big question going around, as this story develops by the hour, is "what did the lawyers in the firm know?"

They all claim to have known nothing, that Rothstein hid all the firm's finances from the partners and associates.

So maybe they didn't know about this investment scheme.

But there are things you know, and things you know.

You know?

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com

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