Frankly I think Thomas Macey and Jeffrey Aleman got off easy on this punishment by the Illinois Supreme Court. It looks like the pair has a couple of weeks left to be practicing lawyers before they are suspended.
The findings of the Illinois Supreme Court do not bode well for other attorney model debt settlement companies where non-attorneys do the majority of work and interaction with clients.
Recent activity in the default judgment against Morgan Drexen and the statements in this situation paint a dangerous liability to attorneys who rent out their name in the debt relief industry.
Crain’s Chicago Business is reporting:
“The Illinois Supreme Court suspended two lawyers who ran a now-defunct debt settlement law firm that was forced to pay $2.1 million in restitution three years ago to clients whose debts weren’t resolved.
Thomas Macey and Jeffrey Aleman each were suspended from practicing law for two years, starting June 4, for professional misconduct tied to their roles at Chicago-based Legal Helpers Debt Resolution. The firm attracted thousands of clients nationwide from 2009 until 2012, when it settled a lawsuit filed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan by paying the restitution and agreeing to stop accepting Illinois clients.
The suspension is not the end of Macey and Aleman’s professional and legal troubles. Jacoby & Meyers Bankruptcy, a firm they led that was formed the day after the restitution settlement was announced, is snared in involuntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings in New York, pursued by creditors who say they are owed more than $1.1 million. The U.S. Department of Justice’s bankruptcy watchdog is monitoring the case, and at a hearing last fall the judge involved called the firm’s treatment of its clients “an outrage.”
Neither Aleman nor Macey, who now lives in Florida, responded to messages seeking comment on the bankruptcy.
Macey was licensed in 1993 in Illinois, and Aleman in 1997.
Yesterday’s decision found that the two lawyers “assisted in the unauthorized practice of law and systematically violated disciplinary rules requiring attorney consultation and communication with clients.”
Legal Helpers Debt Resolution contracted with debt-settlement companies staffed by non-lawyers to communicate with clients and do the majority of the work on their cases. The firm focused on clients who were “vulnerable,” wrote the disciplinary board that heard the case, and involvement with Legal Helpers caused many clients further financial harm.”