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Lawyer’s Ad for a Legal Assistant Results in Bar Complaint

Or If There’s Such a Thing as Pre-Employment Sexual Harassment, This Is It

My readers know I love an entertaining Craigslist want ad for a legal staffer, but honestly, I never thought to check under “Adult Gigs”. However, The Legal Profession Blog reports that section is where one Chicago-based attorney, Samir Chowhan, allegedly posted an ad for a legal assistant/secretary – who was expected to do a whole lot more than just word-process and schedule depositions.

If the section of the Craigslist classifieds where the ad was posted wasn’t warning enough, maybe the request for a “current resume and a few pictures along with a description of your physical features, including measurements” should have raised the hackles of potential applicants.

But one determined applicant, having convinced herself that this firm was simply seeking a really pretty secretary, sent the requested resume and photo, only to receive an email response from “Samir” which dangles an outstanding compensation package (“the range will be from $50,000 to $75,000”) but then leaves no doubt that the position includes some serious quid pro quo sexual harassment right off the bat.

As this is posted in the “adult gigs” section, in addition to the legal work, you would be required to have sexual interaction with me and my partner, sometimes together sometimes separate. This part of the job would require sexy dressing and flirtatious interaction with me and my partner, as well as sexual interaction. You will have to be comfortable doing this with us.

Worse, he goes on to explain that the position requires an audition (like a keyboarding test isn’t bad enough).

So then “Samir” chirpily concludes his email with, “If you’re still okay with everything, let me know what you’re availability is and we can figure out a time for you to come in and interview.” (The grammatical error is his.)

The applicant was so not okay with everything that she reported him to the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. You GO, girl!

According to the Bar complaint, Chowhan initially tried the flimsy “it wasn’t me” defense, and earned himself not only a charge of “bringing disrepute to the legal profession” but also a charge of filing a false statement. Additional allegations of negligence in the complaint give the impression that he isn’t an especially talented immigration attorney either.

Is Chowhan ashamed of his treatment of the poor applicant and totally embarrassed about being busted? Not according to The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog:

We got in touch with Chowhan on Thursday afternoon and sure enough, he copped to it. “I did do that,” he said. Chowhan explained that he was winding up his immigration practice, and “curiosity” got the better of him. “I wasn’t intending to hire anyone,” he added. “I was just screwing around, just curious to know if anyone would respond. Unfortunately, someone did.”

Chowhan says he’s now living in Indiana, is unemployed, and has no intention of practicing law ever again. “I came to that decision months before this happened, though.” At this point, he told us, he’s looking forward to putting it behind him. “I’ll take the punishment.”

Somehow, I don’t think that even disbarment is punishment enough for this jerk. He better hope that he doesn’t encounter the applicant’s significant other or her father in a dark alley…

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Practical Paralegalism Tips Its Hat to Legal Blog Watch

5 Responses to Lawyer’s Ad for a Legal Assistant Results in Bar Complaint

  1. I just read that story at the Chicago Trib's site and was wondering if you've seen it.

    Ironically, I just finished a book with a very similar storyline (only it was 6 attorneys). It makes a great taudry plot in a trashy novel, but not such a great thing in real life…

  2. Unfortunately, I think everyone in America will have seen this story by the end of the day. It's utterly shocking, and his apparent indifference to both the ethical obligations of being a lawyer and a decent human being has left a very bad taste in my mouth. Our firm represents victims of sexual harassment, and unfortunately, there are too many sexual predators out there. I'm so glad that the victim in this case exposed the incident.

  3. I tweeted this one early yesterday, and commented about it on another blog last night. I'll say the same thing here:

    I tweeted this earlier today, under the category of hoping I'd never be that desperate for a job. I've had a chance to think about it a little more since then.

    The link to the complaint goes straight back to the website of the Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission. While I know the attorney discipline types can be wild and crazy guys (I worked for one here in Michigan for 11 years), it would be very hard to pull that off. So I too doubt it is a hoax.

    Interesting note: The Craigslist ad incident is Count Three in a three-count complaint. And it is not the ad itself that is alleged to be misconduct. The misconduct charged concern's the attorney-respondent's alleged false statement in his answer to the job applicant's request for investigation: "Respondent's statement that he did not post the advertisement on Craigslist….was false, and Respondent knew it was false when he made it, because Respondent did in fact post the advertisement on Craigslist and knew when he responded to the ARDC investigation that he had in fact posted the advertisement."

    Counts One and Two both involve neglect and misrepresentation in two separate immigration matters. Had the attorney-respondent not been charged with substantive misconduct regarding two immigration client matters, and had he not initially denied that he placed the ad on Craigslist, he probably would not have been charged with misconduct at all.

  4. As always, you make great points, Margaret. I may be interpreting the complaint a little differently, but I think the acts of placing the ad and then sending the offensive response email fall under the conduct that lead to a charge of bringing disrepute to the legal profession. I hope the alleged act of soliciting sex from job applicants would have been investigated by the Bar, even without the other allegations.

    As for the applicant, I have a lot of sympathy for her in a tough job market, that she went to these lengths hoping it was real job. The fact that the job never really existed in the first place was an extremely cruel hoax -that should count as fraud and misrepresentation, too.

    But ultimately, he will likely not be appropriately punished for the sleazy job farce. I'm glad that the victim publicized it and didn't keep quiet, despite the humiliating nature of this incident. At least when the public and future employers google his name, this will come up.

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