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Tragic State of Legal Profession Exemplified by Cashier's Theft

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

Jacqueline Kinsella is a rare example of a lawyer caught stealing.

Usually, thieving attorneys steal from their clients. Kinsella, apparently unable to get legal work, stole from a cash register.

In either case, stealing says something sinister about the legal profession. If money is the root of all evil, it's a growing problem for many lawyers.

Growing Problem

The Florida Supreme Court suspended Kinesella for "stealing $760 while working as a Kohl's employee." She was not a law clerk; she was a retail sales clerk.

Ever a finger-pointer, Above the Law blames her law school for saddling her with unpayable debt and an unemployment reality. But that's not really the problem, is it?

For example, it doesn't explain why Steven Patrick MacGilvary lifted a wallet containing $1,600. He was caught on video taking the wallet from the conveyor belt of courthouse security in North Carolina.

But at least he had a legal job to pay his bills -- except that day he stole the wallet. He apparently used the money to pay court fees.

Greedy Problem

The classic lawyer-theft cases occur when attorneys take money from clients but don't earn it. In at least one study, more than 30 percent of lawyer-discipline cases involved conversion of client funds.

Joseph Talafous, Jr., who was convicted of stealing $1.5 from clients over the course of his career, was one of those guys. He faces up to 10 years in prison for the rest of his career.

But Marc S. Dreier, a former New York lawyer, may hold the legal record for cheating people. He was convicted of a $700 million fraud, and is counting down a 20-year sentence.

If there is blame to go around for lawyers' stealing, it should include a healthy look in the mirror. Can you see, "Greedy Associates?"

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