'Average Joe' lawyer Menard: License should be suspended, not revoked.

Byline: Michaela Paukner, mpaukner@wislawjournal.com

The Milwaukee lawyer Robert Menard said suspending his license for at least a year would be fair punishment for mismanaging his clients' money. Menard, who billed himself as a lawyer for the "average Joe," is accused of stealing $700,000 from his former law partner, his uncle and his clients.

The Milwaukee County District Attorney Office charged Menard in July with 14 felonies related to theft, forgery and misconduct. The Office of Lawyer Regulation threatened to disbar himafter receiving complaints and held a hearing regarding his misconduct in August. Transcripts from the hearing were filed in October.

The transcripts say Menard admitted to using clients' settlements to pay other clients and expenses.Aformer trust-account administrator for the OLR testified that she had met with Menard's former business partner, Alan Derzon, when the twowere in the midst of breaking up their firm. Derzon said he discovered there was only $50 in the firm's trust account, even though it owed clients as much as $500,000.

As she started investigating, the trust administrator said she found records that misuses of such money had happened repeatedly. She said Menard had hefty expenses for billboards and other advertising, plus needed money to pay back other clients.

The prosecutor asked Menard about "robbing Peter to pay Paul."

"The only time that I ever take the clients' money to do what you're alleging as this Peter to pay Paul is when they bring me a check under a worker-comp system," said Menard.

He said he would put the money in a business account to make it easier to get cash and wire money to clients. He also said he used the business account instead of a trust account so the OLR wouldn't be notified when it made an overdraft, which he said was common. Regarding clients' money, Menard said "the only time that I would give them is if they would ask for it."

Menard's uncle, Philip Menard, also testified at the OLR hearing. Menard had previously settled a lawsuit with his uncle, who had...

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