Paul L. Caron

Friday, March 17, 2006

National Law Journal: Cravath Tax Associate's Trouble Brings Spotlight

CollitonToday's National Law Journal has an interesting article about James Colliton, the 42-year old former Cravath tax lawyer and married father of five who is in jail on teenage rape and prostitution charges:  A White-Shoe Firm Gets Some Unwelcome Attention; Cravath Associate's Trouble Brings Spotlight, by Leigh Jones:

In terms of public relations, having an attorney on your law firm's employee roster who is accused of paying for sex with young girls may be about as bad as it gets. Cravath, Swaine & Moore most likely thinks so, as it plays defense against the media in the frenzy surrounding the arrest of James Colliton. The New York firm's former tax associate was captured this month in a New York hotel after fleeing from authorities. He was charged with having sex with two teenage girls and paying their mother in exchange.

Providing a contrast between the white-shoe crowd and, if true, some very dark behavior, the situation serves as an example of what to do -- and perhaps what not to do -- in controlling the damage created by association. Cravath has declined to comment on the matter, saying through a spokesman only that Colliton is no longer with the firm. But the "no comment" approach is a bad move for businesses in trouble, said Lanny Davis, head of the legal crisis communications practice in the Washington office of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe....

Cravath's current public relations challenges, though bad, could be worse for the firm, said Carey Bertolet, a managing director at BCG Attorney Search in New York. Scandals surrounding financial wrongdoing or systemic malfeasance within law firms are far more harmful to their reputations than the alleged criminal behavior of lone attorneys, if the behavior is unrelated to the practice itself, she said. "The more Wall Street Journal kinds of problems are more disturbing than something you'd find in the New York Post," Bertolet said, referring to a local tabloid known for its crime stories.

For prior TaxProf Blog coverage, see:

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