Pot v. Kettle

The Madison County Record Feb. 4, 2007, 5:01am

When he looks in the mirror, plaintiff's attorney Richard Burke sees Albert Pujols, summarily kicked off the Cardinals by Tony LaRussa's sniveling, incompetent son appointed successor.

When he looks at Richard Burke, Brad Lakin, head of the Lakin Law Firm in Wood River, sees an ingrate, a man happy to rake in a fat salary and millions in bonuses when life is good, but fast to desert when the going gets tough.

Call it our own take on the latest chapter of the Metro-East's most dramatic running reality show, The Lakins.

In this episode, Mr. Burke plays protagonist. Until last month, he's the loyal chief of the Lakin Firm's once-vaunted class action practice. But after a heated business dispute with his boss, Burke is shown the door.

Claiming he's owed hundreds of thousands of dollars, Burke responds with a lawsuit against Lakin and his old law firm, demanding $5 million in damages. His central claim: Brad wasn't doing enough to protect Burke's lucrative pending class actions from that adverse publicity that has resulted from the Lakin Family's personal problems.

Several Lakins, including Brad, are embroiled in a civil lawsuit that involves, among other things, sexual abuse of minors and illegal drug use. The charges are currently under investigation by federal and state authorities as well as the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC), which regulates lawyers. It has filed an official complaint against the firm's now-retired founder-- Brad's father-- Tom.

About all this, Burke says Brad Lakin told him not to worry; that Lakin himself "would not be found guilty of anything." But Burke wasn't appeased.

His biggest concern, according to the complaint he filed in federal court last week, was that Lakin planned to "seize control" of all fees generated from Burke's class action cases in order to fund his family's defense.

Seeing that Lakin categorically denies all of the allegations, and that it is his name on the office door, we have to wonder. Why wouldn't he? Why couldn't he? Why shouldn't he?

Because, Burke says, he himself has been "cheated." That's rich, coming from a guy who turns nickel-and-dime hiccups into class action travesties for a living. Four such cases-- none of which should ever have been brought in court, much less allowed by a judge-- generated a whopping $16 million in legal fees last year alone.

In Richard Burke and Brad Lakin, we see two men for whom clients are but a means to an end; two lawyers dedicated to art of practicing law not to promote justice, but rather, enrich themselves personally.

To the Lakin Firm and its class action reign we say good riddance. And happy fighting! We'll be right here to help splatter that mud for you.

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