When big-firm lawyers stop acting as lawyers, bad things can happen.

That’s the message of a ruling on Thursday from U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves of Jackson, Mississippi, denying Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz’s motion to dismiss claims that the law firm helped a fraudster named Lamar Adams attract investors in what turned out to be a $164.5 million Ponzi scheme.

Baker Donelson did not spend much time on traditional legal services for Adams, who is serving a 19.5-year prison sentence for orchestrating the scheme, which falsely promised investors outsized returns on timber sales to lumber mills. That work was limited, according to Reeve’s opinion, to drafting subscription agreements and some other investment documents.

The firm’s main job for Adams was allegedly to bring in investors, according to the opinion. A Baker Donelson partner and a non-lawyer lobbyist from the firm’s Jackson, Mississippi, office allegedly leveraged…

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