November 30, 2018 Feature

The Bookkeeper Did It! Lawyer Responsibility for Staff Theft of Client Funds

By Mark J. Fucile


One of the most searing problems a law firm can face is the theft of client funds by a staff member.1 Although large firms are not immune from such thefts, they are more common in smaller firms where a single person manages the firm’s trust account and related bookkeeping. “Smaller,” however, is a relative term. The dollar amounts involved are often quite large. In fact, successful smaller firms are uniquely vulnerable because the lawyers are often busy practicing law and may delegate trust account management to a staff member with little or no supervision.

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