Over the years, I have talked to hundreds of lawyers who were in the midst of dealing with real or potential malpractice claims. Of all those calls, one really stands out. It was from a solo practitioner who practiced in a small town in upstate Vermont. He was desperate, almost in tears. He had just been tricked into wiring a fraudster $165,000 from his trust account and wanted to know how he could get the funds back. He said he was approaching retirement and that his life savings wouldn’t come close to covering the loss. He had no insurance.
It is heartbreaking to take a call like this, both for the loss the person has suffered (it is rare that the funds are recovered) and because these types of frauds are so easy to detect and avoid. This lawyer contacted LAWPRO as we had posted the name of his fraudster client on our AvoidAClaim blog. The same fake client had attempted the same fraud on many other lawyers, some of whom had reported it to us. Had this lawyer recognized any red flags, a 30-second Google search would have confirmed for him that his client was a fraudster who was out to dupe him.