While the Garden State is often associated with the Sopranos and their real-life counterparts who somehow seem to evade prosecution, New Jersey does not tolerate lawyers who steal from their clients. Robert Burrick, an attorney who worked at one of New Jerseyâ€™s more prestigious law firms, was sentenced yesterday to eighteen months in federal prison for embezzling $120,000 from his former clients and from the local soccer club, where his children played, and which had elected Mr. Burrick as treasurer.
Burrickâ€™s â€œdistorted sense of entitlement and, to a large sense, his greed,â€ according to the Assistant U.S. Attorney prosecuting the case, drove Burrickâ€™s actions. Burrick offered no explanation for his behavior other than to say that clinical depression might have played a role.
In addition to doing jail time, Mr. Burrick has lost the $400,000 per year income from his law firm, he has lost his reputation, and he will surely be disbarred, if that has not already happened. Lawyers are disbarred in New Jersey for a good deal less, and in cases of theft from clientsâ€™ trust accounts, disbarment is a virtual certainty.
I feel sorry for his children.
In New Jersey all licensed attorneys (with very few exceptions) are required to pay annually into a client security fund, the proceeds of which are used to help re-pay clients who are bilked by dishonest lawyers. I hope the fund is able to cover most, if not all, of the $30,000 that Mr. Burrick stole from the children’s soccer club…
Fortunately, Mr. Burrick is the exception. Unfortunately, that doesnâ€™t make it any less sad.