New York subway riders have long been familiar with the high-volume ad campaigns of Wilens & Baker with its hotlines 1-800-DIVORCE (on which see Dec. 18-19, 2000), 1-800-IMMIGRATION and 1-800-BANKRUPT. At the moment the firm’s big campaign is aimed at recruiting patients who have received hormone replacement therapy: if they’ve taken Premarin or Prempro and later developed breast cancer, heart problems, or many other ailments, they may be entitled to compensation, the ads say. Wilens & Baker’s website declares that the law firm has “a real understanding of the emotional hardship that accompanies extremely unfortunate circumstances”.
Hmmm. It turns out the 12-lawyer firm and its partner Lawrence M. Wilens have just been censured by the New York judiciary for “engaging in a pattern of rude, neglectful and demeaning conduct toward clients” after admitting to 19 violations of the state’s Code of Professional Responsibility, according to New York Lawyer/New York Law Journal, which has numerous colorful details (Anthony Lin, “High-Visibility NY Law Firm Censured”, May 21). Although W&B’s Prempro website declares: “You deserve a firm which specializes in personal injury and mass tort litigation”, it does not mention that 80 percent of W&B’s caseload is actually in immigration law. In the disciplinary proceedings, the firm’s employees and Mr. Wilens in particular were found to have hurled insults at various immigrant clients, including those who could not afford to pay their bills. The firm said it had changed its practices and “Mr. Wilens and other senior lawyers at the firm completed anger management classes”, but the appellate panel refused a plea to keep the reprimand secret. It was also apparently unswayed by a character reference submitted by “Richard Katcher, the chairman of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, one of the city’s top corporate law firms. Mr. Katcher told the committee he was ‘buddies’ with Mr. Wilens and that they frequently dined, socialized and vacationed together. He said he had recommended Wilens and Baker on a number of occasions and Mr. Wilens was well regarded in professional and social circles.” David Giacalone, whose invaluable website has again suspended its specifically legal commentary, covers the story (May 21, & see his comments section).