On May 17, 2013, Glenn C. Lewis, once one of Washington’s area most respected divorce lawyers and former President of the Virginia Bar Association, was disbarred for dishonesty and abandoning his clients. Lewis boasted that he was the most expensive lawyer in the region, charging $850 per hour in highly complex divorce and custody cases.
Lewis’ disbarment fits the usual pattern of a high flying lawyer who crashes and harms his unsuspecting clients. It appears that Lewis was living beyond his means. In 2009, he sued a client for $500,000 in fees owes. The client counter-sued, claiming that Lewis had overcharged him while rendering substandard legal services.
Lewis had billed $627,000 in fees to the client. In contrast, the client’s wife had incurred only $73,000 in attorney’s fees.
Lewis’ billing records showed that there were days when he billed his client for 39 hours, 31 hours, 40 hours, and 71 hours. During a 16-month period, Lewis billed the client on average 7.4 hours per day. Lewis settled the case by refunding $102,000 to his former client.
In 2011, Lewis filed for bankruptcy. A bank foreclosed upon his home in Oakton. Lewis closed his offices in Washington, D.C., and Fairfax.
In the mean time, the Virginia State Bar received complaints against Lewis for receiving large retainers from clients, but providing little or poor legal services. Lewis didn’t appear for court hearings, refused to communicate with his clients, and billed a client’s credit card almost $12,000 without the client’s consent.
Practice pointer for clients: High priced lawyers have high overhead for their office and usually enjoy an extravagant lifestyle. An attorney with a large monthly overhead may have a strong, dysfunctional incentive to take on more cases than he or she can prudently manage and/or charge excessive hourly rates. In a worst case scenario, the high priced attorney will overbill the client and underperform in rendering legal services.