Vanderbilt Law Review

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In increasing measure the legal profession has come to recognize its public responsibilities. One of these responsibilities is to protect clients from the dishonesty of lawyers. The lawyer who handles funds of a client is a fiduciary in the highest sense. Occasionally, however, an attorney misappropriates the funds of his client. The client's remedy against the lawyer is probably futile, for an embezzler will generally have no funds to cover the loss. Although misappropriation is rare it receives much publicity when it does occur. Embezzlement and loss with consequent publicity impair the reputation of the entire legal profession.In dealing with the problem posed, two alternative courses of action are available. One is directed to prevention, the other to reimbursement. Three preventive factors have proven most effective. The first and most important is the personal and professional standard of honesty. The second is an office practice which removes or reduces temptations by strict adherence to the principle that a lawyer must never commingle the funds of the client with his own. The third is directed to detection and punishment. A method of detection employed in British Commonwealth countries is a rigid system of auditing the accounts of lawyers. This would be an effective deterrent to a potential embezzler.