When you are practicing law here in Pennsylvania, it is critical that you correctly and ethically manage your own financial accounts as well as those of your clients. This includes how you handle paying bills for your firm as well as those that are entrusted to you. In addition to the management of those accounts, clear transparent records are essential in case your actions are called into question.
How can attorneys be accused of stealing funds?
● Forging signatures to settle cases cash settlement checks.
● Not paying medical bills from funds.
● Not correctly disbursing settlement checks.
● Taking money from client trust accounts.
● Pocketing money and providing client with fake receipts and deeds.
● Taking retainers and fraudulently billing clients.
● Billing for legal work that was never performed.
● Typically the attorney looks to defraud a client by creating fraudulent companies. Contributions from clients knowingly or unknowingly funneled to these companies when the attorney misrepresents himself as beneficiary.
What can happen if you are caught stealing funds from a client?
When you are accused of stealing funds from a client, the situation needs to be taken very seriously. During the investigation and possible trial your professional and personal reputations are on the line including your livelihood. It is important to find yourself excellent legal counsel. Disbarment, jail time, financial sanctions, and being termined by your employer are all possible outcomes if you are not careful.
What you should do?
Many attorneys believe that they can defend themselves in this cases but that can be very dangerous. As I have previously mentioned, you need a lawyer who is very experienced in defending other attorneys from these accusations. With your professional reputation on the line it is critical that you find experienced counsel to help you through this matter. Just as in every area of the law, you need an expert who knows the best way to defend a fellow attorney from prosecution.