How many ways can a partner or employee steal from your firm? That question was the focus of my recent article, To Catch a Thief.
Here is an excerpt:
Oregon law firms may not have suffered losses in the millions, but they aren’t impervious to theft. In the last four years alone, three prominent cases have drawn headlines. In each instance, the losses were the result of embezzlement by a trusted staff member who took $100,000 (or more) from the employer/firm:
In 2009, a receptionist/secretary of eight years was sentenced for embezzling more than $109,000 from a law firm in the Columbia River Gorge.
In 2007, a Hillsboro office manager/investigator of 15 years was charged with embezzling $132,000 by using credit cards taken out in the lawyer’s name to pay for groceries, haircuts, tanning, cosmetics and trips to Mexico and Las Vegas.
In 2005, a “long-time, loyal, and trusted employee” of a two-partner firm in the Portland metro area embezzled approximately $100,000. The firm had borrowed $50,000 from its credit line to compensate for what the partners thought were uncollected accounts receivable before the embezzlement was uncovered.
Each year the Professional Liability Fund (PLF) receives calls about embezzlement, misappropriation of funds and office theft. Trusted law office staff, attorneys, janitorial help and even clients have been suspect in past incidents. What can you do to protect yourself? The truth is that nothing will stop a thief who is absolutely determined to steal. Although protection from outside risk is beyond the scope of this article, here are a number of precautions virtually every firm can take to minimize the risk of loss internally and to protect clients.
For 30 ways to prevent financial loss to you or your clients, see the full article.
Copyright Beverly Michaelis 2010