Adequate Supervision and Embezzlement

Yet another story in the news of a paralegal being charged with embezzling from her law firm. This story involves a south Florida paralegal who is actually a licensed attorney in another state, but was apparently working as a paralegal in Florida. Perhaps that is why she was able (if the allegations are true) to transfer “transferred $82,473.86 from the firm to pay off three credit cards accounts belonging to her husband in 2008 and 2009,” steal “over $56,000 from accounts belonging to Steven A. Schultz, a lawyer who leased space with the firm,” and transfer “$31,050 from Schultz’s credit card account to the law firm’s account, a move meant to cover up earlier thefts from her employer.”

{At the time, Schultz had been hospitalized at Jackson Memorial Hospital with a terminal illness and was not expected to survive. He did, however, survive and attended Tuesday’s court hearing, according to the report in the Miami Herald.

If the charges are true, there is no doubt as to whole is to blame for the embezzlement – the paralegal. But as I’ve noted before instances such as this raise questions as to whether the paralegal has received “adequate supervision” from her attorneys, something that is both required by the Rules of Professional Conduct and something to which all paralegals are entitled. While this person was a licensed attorney in another state, she was working as a paralegal and thus subject to the supervision requirement.

Thus while the blame for the embezzlement falls squarely on the embezzler, the firm must take some responsibility for supervision that allowed her to engage in this conduct for a period of two or three years.

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