Not every Attorney is an ERISA Attorney

I am an attorney, but I don’t play one on TV.

I have been practicing in the ERISA field for over 18 years and that is all I have done since I first started working after getting my tax LLM degree at Boston University.

When people find out that I’m an attorney, they often ask question that have nothing to do with ERISA. While I can probably pass the state bar again if I have to, I have forgotten more about the law outside of tax than I actually remember. So when people ask me for legal advice outside of tax, I refer the matter out.

On the flip side, just because someone is an attorney doesn’t mean they know ERISA or the Internal Revenue Code as it pertains to retirement plans. Yet when my services come up for a business that has general counsel, I often find the reaction that the general counsel feels that my services aren’t required because they claim that most companies their size don’t get sued over their retirement plan.

I get that reaction a lot. Heck I worked at a semi-prestigious law firm with some snooty lawyers who could never turn down a free meal, but turned down opportunities to refer my services to their clients. Let’s not forget how badly their 401(k) plan was run before I reviewed it (no advisor, no education to participants, no review of investment options for 10 years, and no investment policy statement).

An ERISA attorney isn’t the right person to ask about a criminal matter or adoption and a non-ERISA attorney isn’t the best person to ask if the retirement plan that your company has is being run efficiently and what the liability threats.

Just ask former attorney Benjamin Eicholz of Savannah, Georgia who was sued for the Department of Labor (DOL) for embezzling and transferring retirement plan assets to his firm and relatives. He got 21 months in prison for obstruction of a DOL investigation into his retirement plans.

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