Centerville attorney suspended for overbilling by $87,000

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Attorney Patricia A. Pickrel of Centerville was suspended for two years, with one year stayed on conditions, according to a press release from the Ohio Supreme Court.

While working for the Cincinnati office of the Ulmer & Berne law firm, Pickrel over-billed by more than $87,000 for non-attorney, document-review services, according to the release.

The release said that starting in 2012, she worked on a project for $65 per hour and was to perform work while logged onto the firm’s secure website.

Twice per month, Pickrel emailed her hours to the firm for payments, which totalled $125,000 from 2012 to 2015. In December 2015, a discrepancy was found and an audit showed she over-billed the firm.

“When contacted by the firm partner in charge of the project, Pickrel stated she was a bad record keeper and had computer trouble, but eventually admitted to her misconduct,” the release said. “She requested an opportunity to reimburse the company and paid $87,260 in 2016.”

Pickrel was found to have violated rules by engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation. The court’s opinion stated that while Pickrel was not registered as an active attorney, the conduct rules still apply.

Pickrel established she had a mental-health disorder, submitting evidence that she was diagnosed with dysthymia in 2016, and had been treating the disorder with a therapist, the release said. The therapist certified that Pickrel is able to return to the competent, ethical, professional practice of law.

The Court stayed the second year of her suspension on the condition that she continue to participate in counseling, remain in compliance with her contract, and not engage in further misconduct, the release said.