August 9, 2010
Former Law Firm Associate Suspended
The South Carolina Supreme Court has ordered a six-month suspension of an associate who took retainers due to his firm. The court described the misconduct:
For a period of four years, respondent was employed as an associate attorney in a law firm. Sometime during the months of September and November 2009, a client retained the law firm to quiet title to a tract of land that was purchased from an estate. Respondent informed the client that the fee for the action would be $1,500.00. Prior to the final hearing, respondent requested the client pay the fee in full. The client wrote a check made payable to respondent individually and not to the firm. Respondent deposited the funds into his personal bank account. Respondent represents that he completed the quiet title action for the client.
Sometime during late 2007 or early 2008, another client retained the law firm to perform a partition on a tract of land in which the client had an interest. Respondent informed the client that the attorney fee for the action would be $3,000.00. The client agreed to pay the fee in installments. Prior to the fall of 2009, the client had paid $2,500.00 to the firm. In the fall of 2009, at respondent's instructions, the client sent a check and money order made directly payable to respondent. The check and money order totaled $500.00. Respondent deposited the $500.00 directly into his personal account.
When confronted by the partners of the law firm, respondent admitted that he took the $2,000.00 from the two clients and deposited the funds into his own personal bank account. Respondent made full restitution to the law firm; he resigned from the law firm on November 25, 2009. The law firm reports that no client funds were at risk and that the funds deposited into respondent's personal accounts were the firm's earned fees.
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