Lawyer Suspended for 'Secretary With Benefits' Ad on Craigslist

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on December 05, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A Chicago lawyer's, shall we say, ballsy Craigslist help-wanted ad has led to an unwanted result: a one-year minimum suspension of his law license.

Attorney Samir Zia Chowhan posted the ad in the "Adult Gigs" section of Craigslist, seeking a legal secretary with benefits -- and we're not talking medical, dental, and a 401(k).

The Illinois attorney disciplinary board's report reveals Chowhan sought an "energetic woman" for his immigration law firm. His ad read in pertinent part:

"Duties will include general secretarial work, some paralegal work and additional duties (emphasis added) for two lawyers in the firm. ... If interested, please send current resume and a few pictures along with a description of your physical features, including measurements..."

Perhaps surprisingly, one woman, Debbi Dickinson, did respond to the ad and sent photos as requested. But Chowhan's email reply creeped her out:

"[I]n addition to the legal work, you would be required to have sexual interaction with me and my partner, sometimes together sometimes separate. ... You will have to be comfortable doing this with us."

The sexual duties were apparently so important, Chowhan requested a sexual tryout:

"[A]s part of the interview process you'll be required to perform for us sexually (i didn't do this before with the other girls i hired, now i think i have to because they couldn't handle it). Because that aspect is an integral part of the job, I think it's necessary to see if you can do that, because it'll predict future behavior of you being able to handle it when you have the job."

Dickinson filed a complaint with the Illinois bar. Chowhan admitted that he wrote the ad and the email, but failed to formally respond to the complaint. He also skipped his own disciplinary hearing.

That's why the hearing board ruled against Chowhan's attempt to turn his boutique law firm into more of a boudoir. It concluded that his conduct brought disrepute to the legal profession. That's a violation of an Illinois legal ethics rule, as it is in many other states.

As for Chowhan's attempt at soliciting sex with a potential employee, there's no ethics rule specifically barring that. An ABA model rule prohibits sex with clients unless there's a pre-existing relationship -- but the rules don't mention sex with employees.

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