Being disciplined as a lawyer does not always take a lot, but in the case of Indiana lawyer David James Steele it was almost a race to the bottom. Take his list of offences:
- Misappropriating around $150,000 of client funds
- Transferring client retainers to his personal account, including providing a ‘spot bonus’ to some employees
- Paying clients to write favorable reviews
- Intimidating those who refused to write favorable reviews
- Billing for work he did not do
- Waving a gun at office manager “JD”
. . are there more? Well, probably but isn’t that enough?
Mr Steele admitted to his various misdeed in an affidavit of consent to discipline which showed that Avvo had him with a high 4.5 star rating even though he had been flagged with “extreme caution”.
LibertyLawNow report that Steele communicated at length with his office manager, known as “JD”, about the theft and money shuffling.
In the extensive paper trail he admits to adding to billed amounts for work he did not do, “How much time did we put down for that? I think [I] only told you like 4.5 hours right? Well f*** that. If she wants me to split the cost of those f***ing transcripts [I] told her not to get, add another 1.5 hours to that line ok?”
The resignation of JD lead to a flood of threats from Steele. Through texts and emails, Steele tried to get JD to not cooperate in the investigation, told him he would never be hired by another lawyer, said he would physically fight him, and even took pot shots at JD’s sexual orientation.
Steele lied his way through the investigation too. Telling the Commission that he had fired his former office manager because he caught JD having sex with a male client in a conference room and that JD had gained access to the firm’s website to post anti-gay sentiments all over it.
Did we mention that he waved a gun at JD when he fired him?
Steele even shared recorded conversations between himself and clients with others, because he thought they were funny.