September 17 — And who ever said Hollywood attorneys were boring? Certainly not Barry Hirsch’s ex–law partners, who today filed a cross-complaint obtained by L.A. Weekly accusing entertainment lawyerdom’s éminence grise of more subterfuge than you’d find in a Bond flick — including nocturnal escapades, secret software, deleted e-mails, clients on the side, diverted fees and other purported violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
“Sometime prior to August 13, 2004, Hirsch set in motion a secret plan to loot the Firm of assets, employees and clients at the expense of the other shareholders of the Firm,” the L.A. Superior Court filing by Jackoway Tyerman Wertheimer Austen Mandelbaum & Morris alleged. And talk about chutzpah: Hirsch actually attended a September 1 meeting of the board of directors of his former firm (accompanied by his lawyer, natch, but no bodyguards from what we could gather), and not only sat there while “issues of consequence” to the partnership were discussed, but even voted at the meeting.
The filing also accuses Hirsch of misusing his extensive psychotherapy training to browbeat, beg and badger clients into joining his new firm through myriad manipulations of their emotions, ranging from guilt to sympathy to supposed injustices, and finally to outright lies. There was the one about Barry at the door of the poorhouse.
“One sad and false tale that Hirsch used to play on the sympathies of the Firm’s clients was that he would supposedly suffer financial hardship if the clients did not switch. In fact, Hirsch has amassed great wealth and need not ever work another day in his life,” the filing said. “Whatever it took to steal business from the Firm, Hirsch did.”
Hirsch’s lawyer, Andrew White, of White O’Connor Curry & Avanzado, told L.A. Weekly today that he hasn’t seen the cross-complaint yet and couldn’t comment.
Hirsch, who represented such AAA-list stars as Julia Roberts and J.Lo, fired
the first salvo by leaving and then suing his old firm last month in a very
public move that shocked not only his former partners but also Hollywood’s entire
legal community. (See
“Hirsch’s Hornet’s Nest” )
But this new cross-complaint ups the ante considerably by airing the alleged dirty laundry of the previously press-shy attorney. It claims, among other dastardly deeds, that Hirsch’s “wanton conduct” is “so egregious and so contrary to the ethical duties of licensed attorneys and to the ethical duties of a licensed marriage and family therapist as to warrant the imposition of substantial punitive damages.”
One of the most intriguing charges made in the cross-complaint described Hirsch and his gang engaging in a “nocturnal escapade” at 11:15 p.m. on August 11. First, they “installed unauthorized software on the Firm’s computer system,” then they “used the unauthorized software to download confidential documents and proprietary data of the Firm.” They then “also deleted e-mails and electronic documents from the Firm’s computer system in an attempt to cover their tracks and to deny the use of this information to the Firm.” Wow, it sounds like the next Mission Impossible sequel.
From a partnership viewpoint, most damning is the accusation by Jackoway Tyerman that their senior partner “for years prior, set his own salary, took whatever benefits he wanted, and imposed on the Firm unprecedented personal expenses.”
Then Hirsch and his gang, “while still employed at the Firm, secretly represented clients on the side, preparing to divert and squirrel away for themselves fees that properly belonged to the Firm. The Hirsch parties undertook these side representations without appropriate disclosure to the Firm of the existence of such clients or their matters and without complying with the Firm’s procedures with respect to new clients and new matters.”
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