Michael Potere used to have it all. He was climbing the ranks as an associate attorney at Dentons, the world’s largest law firm. Firm associates can make $200,000 a year or more for their work. The firm has more than 7,000 attorneys in approximately 136 offices around the world. Potere was one of these associates.
Today, Potere walks in the courtroom for a different reason. He pleaded guilty to accessing a computer for an unlawful reason. The plea agreement required Potere to admit violating 18 USC 1030(a)(2)(c), accessing a computer without lawful authorization, in exchange for dismissal of federal extortion charges. Potere faces up to one year in prison, up to five years on probation and a fine of up to $100,000. If he had been convicted on the original charges, he could have spent 20 years in prison.
Potere planned to leave the firm to return to school. He planned to pursue a graduate degree in political science. Potere asked the firm if he could continue to work through the summer until he began his education program. The firm said no. Disgruntled and believing he had been treated unfairly, Potere decided to get his revenge.
The disgruntled associate had a partner’s login credentials because of a discovery project that he worked on in a 2015 case. He used the login to access confidential information that was only available to the partners. He had information about associate attorney reviews, recruitment of new attorneys, billing rates for clients, client lists and more.
Armed with this secret information, Potere tried to extort Dentons law firm. He demanded $210,000 and a piece of artwork to keep the information quiet. The FBI caught Potere using a sting. Representatives from the law firm say they’re pleased with law enforcement’s efforts on the case.
Before arriving at Dentons, Potere worked for the Illinois Attorney General. He also clerked for a federal judge. Potere graduated from Northwestern law school.
Dentons law firm grew to its current size through a series of mergers with law firms throughout the world. In the United States, the firm has its primary office in Washington DC. Major practice areas include banking, antitrust, mergers, securities and taxation. In addition to serving clients, Dentons law also undertakes efforts to further legal practice technology including spearheading the development of Nextlaw Labs, a business entity focused on developing cutting-edge technology for legal practice.