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Virtual Paralegalism

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Disbarred Lawyer Convicted of Theft Blames Legal Secretary

It’s always depressing to see stories about lawyers convicted of stealing client funds. There are so many lawyers doing great work and helping people. Yet a few bad apples tarnish the public’s view of the legal profession.

But it’s even more disturbing to see a lawyer blame missing client funds on a staff member. is reporting that Portland ex-attorney Michael Shinn, disbarred last year and now sentenced to “30 days in jail and five years of probation for stealing clients’ money,” tried to explain his fall from grace to the court, starting by blaming a staff member:

He chalked up the missing money to an inexperienced legal secretary who managed an account that contained awards or settlements to be paid out to clients. He contended that he tried to give the money to at least one client but the client wouldn’t take it. And when he got around to it, he finally, briefly, blamed himself.

If he did allow a staff member with insufficient training to manage a trust account, then blaming himself is the most insightful statement he made. But the legal secretary is not the one the Oregon State Bar disbarred for keeping clients’ money, or the one convicted of stealing $56,000 in client settlement funds.

I wonder what Shinn’s former legal secretary thinks about publicly receiving the brunt of the blame, and if the situation leaves as bad a taste in her mouth as it does in mine.


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Contact Info:

Lynne J. DeVenny, N.C. State Bar Certified Paralegal

Owner & Virtual Paralegal, DeVenny Paralegal Services

Email: lynne.devenny[at]

Telephone: 336-582-0003

Inquiries are welcome, with free quotes available.

Meet Lynne:

Lynne DeVenny is a North Carolina State Bar Certified Paralegal with over 27 years of experience working on complex litigation cases, including medical malpractice, personal injury, workers’ compensation, and Social Security disability.

Disclosure: I am not a lawyer and cannot provide legal representation or legal advice.

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