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In a pickle, the ‘Fantastic Fig’ is disbarred

A Los Angeles lawyer described on his website as “a California icon” and an “L.A. legend” was disbarred in the fourth discipline matter filed against him since 2005. PAUL F. FEGEN [#31680] earlier left his law practice to pursue an emerging career as a professional magician known as The Fantastic Fig, who, he claims, is “guaranteed to amaze.”

Paul Fegen

Fegen

Although the 77-year-old Fegen practiced law for 44 years with an unblemished record, he found himself in trouble in 2005 when he drew a suspension for misconduct in a personal injury case. The last straw came Sept. 24, when he was disbarred after admitting to four counts of misconduct in three matters.

According to the stipulation reached with the State Bar, Fegen drew a measure of fame for originating a subleasing concept called Fegen Suites that permitted solo practitioners and small firms to lease shared office space at a nominal cost while enjoying the amenities of a large law firm. At its height, Fegen had 250 leased floors, occupying 7.5 million square feet, in 26 states. The “suites” had 10,000 tenants and 600 employees. By providing concessions to newly admitted lawyers, Fegen helped them establish themselves for as little as $50 per month.

The business came to an end with a 1982 real estate market crash that left Fegen with empty office space primarily in Houston and Las Vegas. He eventually sold the business.

According to his website, Fegen worked his way through school as a dance instructor, a clown and a juggler before getting his law degree from the University of Southern California. Admitted to the bar in 1961, he specialized in entertainment law and personal injury work and enjoyed financial success. The site claims he has settled 5,000-plus cases for more than $30 million. He also became a television celebrity and was honored for his contributions to the legal profession with a Los Angeles City Council resolution signed by Mayor Tom Bradley.

Fegen’s disbarment resulted from cases that originated in 2005, ’06 and ’07 and resulted in admissions of disobeying court orders and failures to perform legal services competently and keep a client informed of developments in her case.

He did not appear at a case management conference and his client’s case was dismissed. Fegen won a motion to vacate the dismissal after telling the court his non-appearance was the result of personal problems regarding foreclosure of his home, a misplaced file and calendaring errors. Nonetheless, he stipulated that he didn’t perform legal services competently.

He and his client were sanctioned in another matter when he didn’t respond to discovery requests and other motions. He paid $500 of the sanction but still owed $670 and he never told his client she too was sanctioned. In another case, he disobeyed court orders by failing to appear at two hearings.

Despite acknowledging that Fegen cooperated with its investigation, the bar won his disbarment, citing cases in which three prior disciplines led to disbarment.

In addition to the 2005 case, Fegen was suspended and placed on probation in 2006 for abandoning a client and holding himself out as entitled to practice while suspended. His probation was revoked in 2009 for not complying with probation conditions.