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Supervise Nonlawyers Like Your License Depends on It

By George Khoury, Esq. on June 11, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

There's an old saying amongst reasonably prudent attorneys with a staff (and no rhythm): Dance like no one is watching, supervise nonlawyers like they're all actively trying to get you disbarred.

It's an unfortunate truth for many lawyers out there that their staff are not licensed lawyers and are not ultimately liable to the client or court (or your malpractice carrier) for their mistakes, negligence, or telling you that the hearing was at the wrong courthouse. Sure, you can have your staff member fill out a declaration for the court basically falling on their own hourly sword, but in the end, you have to explain that you failed because your staff failed and it's your fault.

Permanent Ban From Law Firm Financial Management

For one Delaware lawyer, not heeding the above idiom has landed him a six month suspension as well as a permanent ban from overseeing his law firm's finances.

Andre Beauregard's story of state bar discipline is one to really remember. He had a regular habit of reviewing his bookkeeper's work monthly. When some obvious problems popped up, his well degreed bookkeeper just said the problems were a glitch in the system. Beauregard hired new bookkeepers (who somehow didn't see any problems), he spent more time reviewing the books, updated his accounting software, and more. Beauregard had been disciplined in the past due to an employee's financial malfeasance.

Unfortunately, he didn't dig deep enough into obvious bookkeeping problems, according to the Delaware bar, which basically equated his actions to sticking his "head in the sand" to "blind [himself] to [his] professional obligations." The bar reasoned that because of his prior discipline, he should have been "hyper vigilant" about his firm's accounting.

Bad Bookkeeping Is Bad for Business

When it comes to accounting, lawyers need to be accurate, honest, and should never treat their trust accounts like their children's piggy bank. That means no borrowing money even if you plan to replace it with your casino winnings in a day or two.

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