Lawyer agrees to censure for padding internal billing records to look busy

Legal Ethics

A Manhattan lawyer has agreed to a censure for padding internal billing records at his law firm to look busy to his partners.

Jeffrey Alan Leighton had removed the false hours before bills were sent to clients, the New York Law Journal (sub. req.) reports. He stipulated to a censure even though there was no precedent for the punishment when billing records are falsified without harm to clients, according to the decision imposing censure by the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division, First Department.

Leighton stipulated that he added 94.8 false hours to the billing records between March 2012 and September 2013, according to the opinion.

The opinion noted that Leighton had never been the subject of a disciplinary investigation in 34 years of practice, he fully cooperated in the ethics investigation, and he expressed genuine remorse and embarrassment for his actions.

Lawyers.com identified Leighton as a member of Will Auslander. He lost his partnership after the fabricated billing was discovered.

Leighton was represented by Richard Maltz of Frankfurt Kurnit Klein and Selz. Maltz tells the ABA Journal that Leighton “never intended that any client be overbilled and no client was overbilled. He’s happy to put this internal firm issue behind him and move on.”

Though Leighton still has his law license, he is considering changing careers to become a teacher. “What he told me is that he has always wanted to teach, and he decided to pursue something he’s always wanted to do,” Maltz said.

Updated at 11:05 a.m. to add Maltz’s comments.



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