Hiring an attorney often takes a leap of faith. New York clients entrust their privacy, their money and their future in the hands of legal professionals with the expectation of honesty and the hope of a positive resolution to their issues. Because so much is often at stake when someone turns to a lawyer, the legal profession holds attorneys to the highest ethical standards. When those standards are not met, a lawyer may face charges of legal malpractice.
For one attorney in another state, violating the rules for the ethical practice of law recently resulted in his disbarment. The state’s supreme court took this drastic action following an investigation by the disciplinary board that revealed the attorney had commingled funds. Strictly forbidden by the attorney code of conduct, commingling funds occurs when an attorney mixes personal funds with money held in trust for clients.
The attorney is accused of writing personal checks from a trust account established to hold funds for client fees. The checks included payment for rent and utilities on his office as well as donations to his church and tuition for a summer camp his daughter attended. Apparently, the attorney used the trust account for personal expenses for 10 years. The attorney vehemently denies that he stole even a dime from the account, but the court cited at least one occasion where a client never received services for which he paid the attorney.
When an attorney commingles funds, it is a breach of fiduciary duties. This is just one example of legal malpractice, which places a client’s case in jeopardy and risks damaging the critical trust clients may place in the legal profession. When a New York client fails to receive services from a lawyer or suspects the lawyer is commingling funds, the client may wish to seek advice from a legal malpractice attorney.