Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Pretending to Be a Lawyer Draws Larceny Charge

A former paralegal at a New York law firm who first pretended to attend law school, and then told the firm he had been admitted to the bar, has been charged by the Manhattan DA's office with felony larceny.  The paralegal began at Anderson Kill & Olick in 1996, and according to the DA's press release (here), in 1998 he told the firm he had started in a night law program, with his schedule adjusted to accommodate evening classes.  Informing the firm in 2002 that he'd graduated, he then stated he failed the bar twice but passed on the third try in July 2003.  He claimed admission to the New York state bar in 2004.  After becoming an associate in the firm doing litigation, his ruse came to light in October 2006, when he was fired.  The larceny charge is based on "stealing the differential between the salaries he received while working in the position of attorney and the top paralegal salaries during that same period, plus $74,500 in bonuses," totaling over $200,000. 

The chronology here is a bit odd, and it may be that additional amounts could have been charged in the larceny count.  For example, most firms will pay for at least one bar review course and even give time off to study, so I suspect the paralegal got money and certain benefits from purportedly taking (and retaking) the exam, which would explain his "failing" twice.  The delay between the reported July 2003 "pass" and the October 2004 "admission" is more difficult to understand -- did he claim a character & fitness issue, perhaps? 

According to the WSJ Law Blog (here), the paralegal's attorney stated in response to the charges, “We look forward to presenting facts and circumstances we think will mitigate the charges brought by the people.”  It's not entirely clear what "facts and circumstance" would mitigate the charge if in fact the paralegal deceived Anderson Kill over eight years and, perhaps more importantly, for the two years clients believed they were being represented by a licensed attorney and any courts in which he entered an appearance.  The paralegal was also charged in Connecticut for impersonating a lawyer for his role in representing a client in a matter in that state; he is seeking to enter a special rehabilitation program that could result in the charges there being expunged (see Stamford Advocate article here).  The felony charge in Manhattan may be a bit harder to deal with. (ph)

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