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Attorney faces 2-year suspension over 19 counts of alleged misconduct

A Fond du Lac attorney faces a two-year suspension for misconduct, including misappropriating money at his former law firm.

According to an Office of Lawyer Regulation complaint filed Jan. 12, Daniel Parks is suspected of committing 19 counts of misconduct related to work he performed while at Zacherl, O’Malley & Endejan from 1995 to 2013, as well as to his dealings with a client, her daughter and her sister.

Counts one through six involved his employment at the Ripon offices of Zacherl, O’Malley & Endejan. According to the OLR, Parks misappropriated fees and acted in his own interests instead of his clients’ or his firm’s. After he left Zacherl, O’Malley & Endejan, one of his partners discovered billing discrepancies showing that Parks had done legal work on the side without the firm’s knowledge, according to the complaint.

In all, Parks received at least $3,875 in legal fees for work he did not do for the firm and deposited those fees in his personal bank account, according to the OLR. Also, Parks is alleged to have represented more than 30 clients without his firm’s knowledge and did not check for conflicts of interest.

Parks is still further suspected of arranging for clients to do remodeling and auto-body work and create a website in exchange for a reduction in legal fees, according to the complaint.

The remaining 13 counts of misconduct involved a friend Parks had known since the early 1990s, who was both a client and a tenant. Parks is suspected of getting the client to give him a $35,000 loan after she had won a settlement from a personal-injury case in which he had represented her. Even though his personal interests might have interfered with his ability to represent her, Parks later drafted a will for the client, the OLR alleges.

According to the complaint, Parks failed to get his firm’s permission before granting 33 percent to 25 percent reductions in the legal fees that he charged for representing the client’s daughter. He also had the daughter write him a $5,000 check and mark it in its memo line as being a “gift.” Both the client and the client’s daughter were never given an opportunity to seek independent advice and Parks did not get written consent for the loan, according to the OLR.

The complaint also alleges that Parks installed his then-firm’s software on the client’s computer without also setting up password protection, allowing the client and anyone else with access to the computer to view confidential client files.

Two weeks before the client died in 2013, according to the OLR, Parks paid himself $1,950 from her account without documenting any time or expenses using his power of attorney. He is also suspected of selling the client’s car to himself even though he knew the client had willed it to his daughter. Parks had also withdrawn $1,500 from the client’s account the day before to pay rent that was not even due yet.

Also, when handling the client’s estate, Parks kept the client’s personal property even though relatives had asked  for it. He also kept property given him by the client’s daughter, even though he knew the estate had unpaid creditors.

The OLR also alleged that Parks misled the client’s daughter and sister into thinking they were signing an agreement that would close the client’s account. In fact, though, the action merely relieved him from paying the remaining balance of the $35,000 loan he had received from the sister and released him from any liability arising from the client’s estate.

Parks could not be immediately reached Thursday.

When the OLR attempted to investigate the misconduct, according to the complaint, Parks cooperated with investigators but gave false or incomplete testimony, “causing OLR’s investigation to spend numerous additional hours” reviewing bank records, interviewing more witnesses and getting additional documents.

Parks graduated from Drake University Law School in Des Moines and was admitted to practice law in Wisconsin in 1991. His license is in good standing, according to the State Bar and OLR websites. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has never disciplined him.

About Erika Strebel, [email protected]

Erika Strebel is the law beat reporter for the Wisconsin Law Journal and a law school student at UW-Madison. She can be reached at 414-225-1825.

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