A recent American Bar Association news bulletin indicated the state of Tennessee is experiencing a spike in lawyers disappearing with client funds. Meanwhile, this blogger's quick and unscientific review of recent lawyer discipline by the Virginia State Bar suggests a large number involve the failure to exercise diligence (Rule 1.3) and communicate timely (Rule 1.4). The runner-up category seems to be the mishandling of money.
A surprisingly large number of suspensions are for accumulating an insufficient number of continuing legal education credits annually, or for failure to pay dues. The lesson is to never become so busy or distracted that you fail to update your forwarding address, or ignore correspondence from the State Bar.
Speaking of money, lawyers are falling prey to the cash-back-on-an-oversize-check scam just like members of the public. The con is described in the following manner in the Virginia Legal Register, where they probably meant to use the word “implicated” instead of “implicit” in the second paragraph:
“FBI Warns of Internet Advance-Fee Scam
The Richmond Division of the FBI has issued an alert regarding an advance-fee scam targeting attorneys in multiple states, including Virginia. A person holding himself or herself out as “Bruce Shattock” or “S & J Boring” of Livonia, Michigan, has contacted several attorneys via e-mail requesting assistance in the collection of a business debt, usually about $200,000.
Bruce Shattock is an identifiable person and S & J Boring has been identified as an actual business. It is believed that the perpetrator is impersonating these entities and neither is implicit in the scam.
Several days after engaging the attorney, the perpetrator advises that the debt dispute has been resolved and the attorney receives a fraudulent check from the debtor company to “settle” some or all of the fictitious debt. The perpetrator requests that the attorney subtract a fee for legal services and immediately wire the balance elsewhere, typically to a bank account in China, in an attempt to obtain the funds before the check is discovered as fraudulent.”