Oops one of your lawyers isn’t really a lawyer! It just happened again to another firm. What should you do?

There is a new fraudster exposed who was posing as a lawyer.  While it’s early in the investigation, it seems as if Mark Pastuszak has worked at two prestigious NY law firms claiming to be a lawyer admitted inNew YorkandNew Jersey.  In truth, he was admitted in neither.  At blog press time, his law school graduation and claimed clerkship is being confirmed.  Both firms are investigating and likely contacting clients and others to see how to proceed.

The previous case a few years back was an actual Partner in an AMLAW 250 firm.  The fact pattern is a bit different as unlike the current example of a lateral hire, the fraudster progressed in the firm from being hired as a paralegal claiming to go to law school at night.  In reality, he did not even go to law school (and obviously did not pass the bar).  It was reported at the time, that the firm made amends to their clients by reviewing his billing records while posing as a lawyer (Associate and Partner) and refunded the difference between the lawyer rate and the paralegal rate to all client work for his tenure at the firm.

The fallout from both of these cases is terrible for the firm.  The firms suffer great reputational harm as well as a very large financial loss.  The differential paid in the previous case (lawyer vs. paralegal) was probably hundreds of thousands per year worked.

So what can management do to avoid these problems?  As part of the due diligence process in both promoting paralegals who become lawyers (and former clerks) AND laterals, you must check with each states’ licensing authorities to confirm the admissions.  Put it on your new hire checklist and eliminate the risk.

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