Theft of Firm Files by Departing Lawyer?


So you are a fifteen-year associate at a law firm with apparently limited future prospects. What would you do? How about plotting your leave by copying client files, have your girlfriend hack into the firm’s computer system and change client contact information. Oh, and then falsely tell clients that the partner is retiring from the practice of law.

Straight from sunny Florida, these facts arise from a recent appellate decision overturning a $1.47 million verdict in favor of the spurned law partner. Winters v. Mulholland, 2010 WL 323035, Dist. Ct. App. (2nd Div.), Case No. 2D08-5270 (Jan. 29, 2010). While there is no indication whether there were disciplinary proceedings related to the lawyer’s departure, the District Court of Appeals made the following understatement: “The facts in this case are enough to make any legal ethics professor cringe.”

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