Most attorneys do not break the law, but there is a certain percentage of attorneys who will misappropriate the funds of their clients. Rather than using the funds in a manner in which it was originally agreed upon, the attorney may use the funds for their own personal use. If you discover that your attorney is misappropriating funds, you will need to take immediate action to protect yourself and save your case.
How an Attorney Might Misappropriate Funds
A common example of an attorney misappropriating funds is when the funds are placed in a trust that the attorney has control over. Misappropriation of funds is different from theft in that the attorney is not committing theft initially; they are originally obtaining the funds in a legal manner. The act of theft only begins when the attorney misuses the funds.
Using the funds of a client in a manner that they were not intended to be used is a criminal breach of trust. If your attorney is convicted of this practice, your attorney is likely to be disbarred and stripped of their license.
How to Prove the Misappropriation of Funds
You must show that the attorney had control of the funds but did not have ownership. For example, the fee you pay to your attorney would be funds that your attorney has control over. You will need to prove that there was intent to misappropriate the funds and that this was not done accidentally.
In addition to spending the money, an attorney could also misappropriate funds by transferring them to another account. Even if the funds are returned, this would still be considered misappropriation.
How to Hold Your Attorney Accountable
If you believe that your funds are being misappropriated, there are several actions you can take. You can fire your attorney at any time and hire a new attorney. You can choose to press charges against your current attorney. You can also use an attorney disciplinary complaint form to hold your attorney accountable for their actions.
A disciplinary complaint form makes it much easier to take action against an attorney. Then, you can file the complaint at the bar for your state. Once the complaint has been filed, there is a good chance that your lawyer will be disbarred if the bar is able to prove that the funds were misappropriated. Then, you can hold the attorney accountable for their actions.