Good help is hard to find.
This has been especially true for former California-based lawyer Brian Ching. Ching’s secretary for 17 years, Ana Lissa Reyes, was recently indicted for embezzling approximately $327,000 from Ching’s law firm. Reyes worked nearly two decades in the office as office manager, secretary, and paralegal.
Over the course of the past few years, she has worked diligently to scam money from the pockets of the firm’s clients, even after she was fired in 2009.
How she did it
For years, Reyes called clients of Ching’s law firm and claimed she was negotiating settlements. Instead of actually doing so, the paralegal pocketed the funds provided to pay these settlements.
She contacted people who’d been sued by the firm’s clients in the past and asked for more money as a way of settling their debts and cases. Additionally, she accepted new clients on behalf of the firm and stole their fees.
What went wrong
In 2009, Ching’s clients began noticing that their funds were missing. After several complaints were directed to Ching, the attorney confronted Reyes. She denied any knowledge of what was happening.
In the meantime, more clients complained, prompting the state bar to open an investigation. Ching proceeded to fire Reyes. Unfortunately for him, the state’s probe ultimately concluded with the decision to disbar Ching this past September for failing to protect his clients’ best interests.
Hiring an embezzling paralegal
Paralegals are vital to their firms. They work long, hard hours to help attorneys prepare cases, look up past decisions, and do the dirty work to prepare for negotiations and trials. Reyes was doing the dirty work, all right; she was just doing it while collecting a nice — albeit illegal — array of fees on the side.
Paralegal school training
It is a daunting task to find a professionally trained paralegal you can trust. If you are searching for one, however, selecting one who has attended a reputable school is essential. Paralegals receive highly technical training, during which they learn the ins and outs of the law. Trusting your paralegal starts with hiring one with a solid and reputable education.
It might be an easy joke for some people that attorneys are not trustworthy and steal your money. However, in Ching’s case, his paralegal’s inability to use common business sense and her loose personal ethics cost him his license. No longer permitted to practice law in California, Ching undoubtedly wishes he’d had the foresight to hire a trustworthy paralegal to work in his office.