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Should Convicted Prosecutor’s Redemption Include Working as a Paralegal?


Mark may not be able to practice law, but nothing prevents him from working as a paralegal. What an asset he would be to a firm representing people in trouble. He’s been there. He’s survived. He has a fine mind and legal training. ~ Norm Pattis, Attorney


Norm Pattis, a Connecticut criminal defense and civil rights attorney, takes a passionate, and likely controversial, position in his recent article in the Connecticut Law Tribune, “Imprisoned Prosecutor on the Road to Redemption”, about disbarred attorney Mark Hurley, who was convicted of embezzlement and has served his prison sentence. Pattis expresses his sympathy for Hurley’s uncertain employment future and shares his possible solution: working for Pattis as a paralegal.

The National Legal and Policy Center discussed the story at the time of Hurley’s sentencing. Hurley was a former Connecticut State prosecutor and treasurer of his union, the Connecticut Association of Prosecutors, when he pled guilty to larceny and theft charges arising out of the theft of $80,000.00 in “union and union-sponsored charity funds, the latter earmarked for crime victims.” He was “disbarred immediately after sentencing.”

Hurley’s defense attorney, Edward Gavin, described his client as exhibiting long-term obsessive-compulsive behavior that had been manifest, among other things, in a “horrible, horrible gambling problem.” Hurley himself admitted before Judge Patrick J. Clifford that he stole money to disguise gambling losses. “It’s clear we’re all here today because of my own actions and I take full responsibility for them,” he said. According to his attorney, he had made full restitution. As for Hurley, he just wants to get back to his wife and two daughters and put his life back together.

Pattis describes his compassion for Hurley’s downfall, as well as his need to earn a living and keep a roof over his family’s heads. And Pattis chooses to help by offering Hurley a position as a paralegal in his own practice. He closes the article with, “What tongue-clucking the self-righteous will enjoy. But tell me, truly, who among us is without sin and sorrow?”

I sure do dislike a self-righteous tongue-clucker as much as anybody else. And it’s true that I’ve got my own share of sin and sorrow. However, I am a paralegal, and I have posed the question here in this blog before, “Should a disbarred attorney be allowed to work as a paralegal?”

The National Federation of Paralegal Associations discusses this issue, including the jurisdictions where disbarred attorneys are totally or partially banned from working in law offices, in an article posted at its website, “Off the Team, but Not Out of the Game: Disbarred and Suspended Attorneys Practicing as Paralegals”. The authors take the position that disbarred attorneys should never be allowed to work in law offices, and suggest that suspended attorneys should undergo a period of rehabilitation before being allowed to petition the state bar for permission to work in a law office.

The Ethical Quandary, a blog sponsored by Hinshaw and Culbertson, LLP, has published two posts this year about disbarred attorneys working as paralegals and presents another view of the issue:

It is unfortunate — but true — that lawyers every month are suspended or disbarred for misconduct. Appearing in the “Discipline” section of the bar bulletin is the least of their concerns; these lawyers have big decisions in front of them, having now to determine what to do with their practices and how to support themselves during their suspension (or disbarment).

Because these lawyers may not engage in the practice of law, many consider taking employment as a legal assistant or paralegal. Lawyers are specially trained with practical experience and can often be a valuable asset to a practicing lawyer. The lawyer’s skills may be used to conduct legal research, prepare and draft legal documents, write briefs, and do other preparatory or investigative work for the active lawyer.

For a suspended or disbarred lawyer who wishes to be reinstated, working in a law firm makes a lot of sense. It allows the lawyer to stay active during the period of suspension or disbarment so that the lawyer’s skills do not suffer a noticeable drop. It also may provide the suspended or disbarred lawyer a recommendation from the hiring lawyer when proving rehabilitation, good character and fitness to practice law.

I found a thought-provoking quote about redemption from critically acclaimed author Lin Jensen, ” Understanding and tenderness would arise among us no matter how bad things got, and we found redemption in the very places we hurt most.” Should Hurley’s road to redemption include working in the very place he hurt most – the law?”

Related Posts: CA Attorney Suspended for Hiring Disbarred Lawyer as Paralegal; Ex-Attorney Working as Paralegal Charged with Theft

5 Responses to Should Convicted Prosecutor’s Redemption Include Working as a Paralegal?

  1. Norm Pattis has done a great job. If a lawyer has been suspended for his/her misconduct and then it proves that he has been given punishment for his/her wrong doing. Now society will look after the matter how he/she can make both the ends meet. It is wonder to know that paralegal opens the new door. It is not only for the suspended lawyers but also for the deprived people.

  2. I have mixed feelings on this subject. On the one hand, I don't want this profession I hold dear to become a haven for unethical attorneys. I don't want the public to view us as a group of people who couldn't hack it as lawyers. If enough disbarred or suspended lawyers enter my profession, we could all easily gain that reputation.

    However, even disbarred attorneys have to provide for themselves and their families.

    I think I'll perch myself on the fence. Perhaps a case by case examination is best. If he was disbarred for being a horrible manager of money and could not keep the client trust accounts balanced, thereby losing or misplacing client funds, then he may still make a great paralegal. If he was intentionally stealing money… probably not.

  3. I have first hand experience having worked for a firm where this has happened with a non-lawyer employee. Given the opportunity and responsibility, a paralegal or bookkeeper is just an likely to embezzle as is an attorney.

    I also know of two attorneys who were disbarred (reasons not known) who now work as "senior law clerks" for attorneys in my town.

    Has he been treated for the disorder that allegedly caused this? What's to keep him from doing it again at another firm or at any other employment for that matter. He made a mistake and if he's gotten treatment for the disorder, should he be given a second chance? If the only field he knows is the law, then that's where he is going to be, hopefully in a position that does not have access to the bank accounts.

    I am not sure, however, that I could bring myself to hire him.

  4. I think this is a 'damned if you do and damned if you don't' type of situation. I too have concerns about the paralegal industry becoming a dumping ground for unethical attorneys who couldn't hold themselves to the high standard of the law.
    Would a law firm hire a paralegal with this type of background regardless of training or retribution for offenses committed? I highly doubt it. So why should there be a different standard just because someone has held the attorney designation. Does that Esq. behind their name somehow make them more redeemable than a trained paralegal?
    As much as I'm an advocate for second chances, I have a hard time swallowing this type of elitist differentiation.
    Perhaps the bar should themselves come up with ways a disbarred attorney can work toward bringing themselves back into good standing, but simply dumping them into a profession because of it's proximity to the profession they've 'failed out of' doesn't seem right somehow.

  5. Paralegals and attorneys are not interchangeable; they really should and do bring different skill sets to the table. The best paralegals are to attorneys what nurses are to doctors. I hope someday paralegals are actually perceived that way!

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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]gmail.com

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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