Barnes and Thornburg attorney John F. Meyers is suspended from the practice of law for two years. That’s because officials say he falsified his hourly billing in order to collect payments for work he didn’t do. The Georgia Supreme Court handed down the suspension.
An official reviewing the case recommended disbarring the attorney completely. However, the discipline panel decided on the two-year suspension. The disbarment is the result of Meyers’ attempts to fool a corporate client into paying bills that they didn’t owe for services that Meyers performed for someone else.
Meyers practiced in the areas of labor and employment law with Barnes and Thornburg. Barnes and Thornburg is a large law firm with more than 600 attorneys. Authorities say the events leading to the suspension happened in 2011.
Authorities say that Meyers helped another attorney use the corporation’s money to fund a new, private law firm. The pair didn’t have the authority to siphon the company’s money for that purpose, officials say. They say the pair billed a large corporation for work that wasn’t done for the corporation’s benefit. The other attorney involved in the scheme agreed to give up his law license. Meyers denied that he knew he was defrauding the corporate client. He said that he was just following instructions from the other attorney involved in the scheme.
When the fraud came to light, the corporation fired the attorney involved. Meyers resigned as in-house counsel. Meyers repaid the money. The disciplinary panel said that because Meyers quickly repaid the money he took fraudulently, a suspension was more appropriate than complete disbarment.
Meyers leaves the practice of law after 34 years in practice. His professional accomplishments include defending NFL quarterback Jameis Winston. Meyers hasn’t had any other discipline charges in his entire career. Meyers had legal representation during the disciplinary proceedings. The state entered the opinion and its order of suspension on December 11, 2017.
Despite ethics rules preventing dishonesty in billing, honesty in billing is often hard to enforce because of a lack of oversight and accountability for attorneys who own their own practices and bill independently. Many attorneys still bill for services by the hour. Some say the business model discourages efficiency. With attorneys under pressure to be profitable for their firms, they might exaggerate their hours in order to meet billable hour requirements or earn bonuses. Some say there aren’t enough checks and balances for clients to catch dishonesty and outright fraud.