Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Paying the Receptionist "Under the Table"--God Bless the Solo Lawyer

The Massachusetts Disciplinary authorities report on the 3 month suspension meted out to an otherwise honorable attorney who paid his receptionist "under the table."  The story comes by way of the Legal Profession blawg:

                                      "IN RE: DANIEL J. SZOSTKIEWICZ

In August of 2007, the respondent hired a former client to work in his office as a receptionist. The respondent asked the employee to sign a W-4 form. The employee refused to do so, stating that she needed to be paid “under the table” so that she could maintain her MassHealth benefits because her husband was ill. The respondent understood that the employee wished to hide her income from the state authorities so that she could continue to receive MassHealth benefits for which she otherwise might not be qualified and agreed to not report the employee’s income to the state and federal authorities.

The respondent paid the employee approximately $400 per week for about seven months without reporting her income. On February 12, 2008, the respondent terminated the employee’s employment. The employee was initially unable to collect unemployment benefits after the respondent terminated her employment, but, at her request, the respondent made the appropriate payments to the state unemployment commission and acknowledged her status as a former employee. The employee received unemployment benefits beginning in June of 2008. After an investigation by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, the respondent paid the Commonwealth a civil penalty of $2,000.

By not reporting to state and federal authorities the income paid to his employee, the respondent knowingly engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation, in violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.4(c).

The respondent was admitted to practice in 1993. In mitigation, the respondent’s conduct did not involve a legal matter, although it did involve his law practice. In further mitigation, the respondent was not motivated by a desire to benefit personally from the arrangement with his employee.

The case came before the board on a stipulation of facts and disciplinary violations and a joint recommendation for discipline by a suspension of three months, with the first thirty days to be served after entry of the order, and the remaining sixty days to be suspended for a period of one year, subject to conditions that the respondent (1) within ten days of the effective date of the order of suspension, contact the Director of the Law Office Management Assistance Program (LOMAP), and make arrangements for LOMAP to inspect and audit the respondent’s law office practices and (2) during the period of probation, abide by all directives received from LOMAP regarding the management of his law office.

On May 10, 2010, the board voted to recommend that the Court accept the parties' stipulation and joint recommendation for discipline. On June 28, 2010, the Court ordered that the respondent be suspended from the practice of law for three months, effective July 5, 2010, with the final sixty days of the suspension suspended for one year under the probationary conditions set forth in the stipulation of the parties."
This sort of thing makes me sea sick. 

This is the dissonance we tolerate in our disciplinary rules as applied to the profession. 

It's ironic, really, the best and brightest among us are recruited into Big Law firms, where well-paid associates serve even better-paid partners and the problems of personnel issues, human resources, taxes, accounts payable and receivable, client relations, and so forth are dealt with by departments populated by skilled professionals.  The least talented among us, become solo practitioners responsible for all those things like personnel, taxes, malpractice insurance, payroll, accounts payable, pissed off clients, the gross miscarriages of justice, impossible deadlines, pissed off judges, pissed off law clerks and the like--oh, and we take an oath to uphold the law. 

We, the least talented among us--bear the brunt of the disciplinary authorities, disgrace, and crushing debt.

I was honored to have been an attorney, but I fully recognize in hindsight how little appetite I had for the years of adversity that I suffered let alone my self-consuming rage.  God bless the men and women making an honest living at small and solo law practices.  You have no idea how perilous this way of life is.


  1. Don't forget scheduling, and attending CLE while juggling all the rest of these things. Solo practice is a sucker's game.

  2. I really want to thank you for not criticizing Atty.Szostkiewicz, as he is my step-father. He got so much shit for this, all because he was trying to help this elderly woman. So many bloggers, sitting behind their little laptops bashed Dan by stating he's a bad lawyer (totally not true, I'd like to see them go up against him in a case). You're different though, I respect that you understand that sometimes justice is more fairly served outside the court.

  3. Yah I used to work for that a-hole and not only is he a BAD LAWYER he is a coke head as well as a dishonest chauvinistic pig. He deserved a lot worse than a 3 month suspension.

  4. I came here to add to the legions my account of Sosky ripping me off. The truth is, he's his own worst enemy. His personal life is a train wreck. His practice imploded. He can't manage his own affairs and now he wants to run Holyoke?

    What a JOKE.

  5. Funny that the only person sticking up for him is his step son.

  6. This guy is a real POS