Denver Bar Association
April 2005
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Battling Personal Demons

by Daynel L. Hooker

An Interview with Mike Dice

Imagine going from making $250 an hour to 25 cents a day in a matter of months — through your own self-destructive conduct.

Snorting cocaine. Stealing money from clients — the most egregious of sins any lawyer can commit. These sins landed a once prominent Colorado attorney in prison.

"I lost everything that any lawyer could lose, except my life,’’ said Michael Dice, 55. Looking at this mild-mannered father of four, grandfather of two, you’d expect to see just a tiny hint of bitterness after what he’s experienced in the last 10 years. But any bitterness is directed at himself.

"I deserved all the consequences I got, but the people who trusted me didn’t deserve the fallout from it."

It’s been less than a year since Dice was released. Today, he’s slowly rebuilding a life that seems miles and miles away from the life of affluence and stature he once enjoyed.

From all appearances, he had everything in 1997. He
was making more money than many lawyers see in a lifetime and was respected in the legal community as an expert in his practice area.

But lurking beneath the surface of his seemingly well-ordered life, Dice had personal demons he struggled with — drug abuse, chronic depression and greed. The demons won and Dice lost. He’ll tell you himself, he didn’t just lose the
battle. He lost it all. His wife. His sprawling home on five acres of prime Evergreen real estate. His thriving law practice. His career. His self-respect.

"I’d been living a lie for so long. I really betrayed the people I cared about. I was a liar and a thief and a drug addict. I was leading a very secret life."

That secret life came to light on May 14, 1997, when
Dice was suspended pending further order from the Colorado Supreme Court and told he had been under investigation for nearly three years for misuse of clients’ funds.

In November 1997, Dice was disbarred. In January 1998, he was sentenced to eight years in the Colorado Department of Corrections after pleading guilty to one count of felony theft. He was immediately taken into custody to begin serving his time at Fremont Correctional Facility in Cañon City.

"I had a huge sense of relief. It was over. I had nothing more to hide."

After serving nearly three years, Dice was transferred to
a community corrections program where he lived on campus and was allowed off only to work. Last June, he completed his sentence. Since his release, he has been keeping a low profile and working toward repairing his relationships with his children, his parents, and re-establishing his friendships. He supports himself by working as a legal assistant for several local firms


doing legal research and writing. He now calls home a two-bedroom apartment in Lakewood.

Does he mind being the poster child for what lawyers shouldn’t do?

"It’s like holding up a billboard all by yourself," Dice said of his former secret life. "It wears you out. Now, I don’t have anything to hide. You can’t take anything away from me that I haven’t already lost."

He said much, if not all the damage — his cocaine habit, stealing from clients — had been done by the time he was suspended in May 1997. In 1994, he’d secretly entered and successfully completed a substance abuse rehabilitation program and was slowly finding his way out of the hole he’d dug. But the combination of the drugs, chronic depression and his
success caught up with him when two associates who worked for him reported him to the grievance committee in 1994.

"The worst part of the three years was the uncertainty
of not knowing," Dice said of the lengthy investigation into his ethical and criminal conduct. "I knew I would have to do real time."

Right now Dice’s biggest concerns are his former clients and his children. He’s spending time with his children and grandchildren — he sees his 17-year-old son several times
a week and his older three girls, who live in other states,
when he can. He’s been reacquainting himself with old, safe passions, like growing flowers.

"I love raising things," said Dice as he proudly points to his thriving African Violets, Ficus and Hibiscus. "I want to be around living things. It’s humanizing to me."

When he went to prison, only three lawyers visited him: his attorney, a Denver judge, and one of the many attorneys he called friend before his troubles. "You find out really quick who your friends really are when you get in trouble like I did."

If he decides to pursue reinstatement to the bar, which he would be eligible to do at the end of this year, he must finish reimbursing several hundred thousand dollars to the clients he defrauded.

"I’m in no hurry because it will take me the rest of my life to pay it back," Dice said as he measured his last sentence. "But I don’t want to die disbarred."

Daynel L. Hooker is an associate in the Denver office of Durrani Law Firm. You can reach her at Daynel@durrani.com.


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