When the Lakin Law Firm filed its newest class action complaint in Madison County Circuit Court Jan. 22, long time co-counsel Paul Weiss of Freed & Weiss in Chicago was noticeably missing from the complaint.
According to attorney Richard Burke, Lakin's former class action boss who was fired Jan. 4, firm president Brad Lakin also severed ties with Freed & Weiss.
Burke, who filed a breach of contract suit against Lakin and the firm in federal court this week, claims Lakin ordered that all clients be issued letters informing them that they had to choose between representation by the Lakin Firm or the Freed & Weiss firm.
Freed & Weiss is listed as co-counsel on at least 77 class action cases in Madison and St. Clair Counties.
Burke claims Lakin was acting the way he did because he was personally under investigation by the Illinois Bar for accusations of ethical misconduct; he and members of his family had been under investigation by law enforcement authorities; and the Lakin Firm was being excluded from participation by other plaintiffs class counsel in class action litigation pending in other jurisdictions.
He also claims that defendants in class actions were beginning to attack the Lakin firm as adequate class counsel, all as a result of the personal scandals of the Lakin family and Bradley Lakin.
According to Burke, the Lakin Law Firm does not have sufficient experienced and competent staff to prosecute the class actions already filed.
Burke believes the Lakin firm has replaced him with younger, inexperienced attorneys whom may not be able to properly represent the interests of the class.
With his termination and the termination of the Freed & Weiss, Burke claims Lakin removed from the putative class clients almost all of the institutional knowledge related to the representation of these clients solely for his own personal gain.
Burke claims Lakin wanted to terminate his employment with because he knew that he would not allow Lakin to subvert the best interest of the class action clients and the certified classes to the personal interest of Bradley Lakin and the Lakin family.
He claims his firing was done to humiliate him and cause emotional distress to satisfy Lakin's desire to inflict suffering.
"The termination by the Lakin Law Firm of Plaintiff's employment and their breach of their obligation to pay Plaintiff the Class Action Bonus Compensation of $500,000 was caused by the conduct of Defendant Bradley Lakin solely for Defendant Bradley Lakin's personal gain, to satisfy his personal animous and malice, and was not undertaken to further the interests of the Lakin Law Firm," Burke's complaint stated.
In December, the Record reported that Freed & Weiss does not carry malpractice coverage, even though one of its founders was once suspended by the Illinois Bar for harassing several women.
While such lack of coverage does not violate Illinois law, it raises questions as to the adequacy of representation that class-action members in the firm's cases are receiving.