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Pa. Law Firm is Sadder But Wiser After Alleged Thefts By Paralegal

Posted May 19, 2009 7:57 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A problem paralegal at a Pennsylvania law firm reportedly arrived late, left early and had a bad attitude. But only after she was let go one Friday did routine audits a few days later of the law firm estate accounts she had been handling allegedly reveal a more serious issue.

She had been stealing, according to managing partner Paul Baker Bartle of High Swartz and Montgomery County authorities. Now charged with theft and forgery, Kathy Foer-Morse had been referred to the Norristown law firm by a recruiter, he tells the Legal Intelligencer.

The law firm doesn't conduct criminal background checks on such candidates, because the recruiter has already vetted them, Bartle tells the Philadelphia Daily News. "Certainly, the recruiter didn't do their job," he says.

Had a background check been done, High Swartz presumably might have discovered that Foer-Morse is awaiting sentencing for stealing $285,000 from a law firm in New York City. She is accused of taking a little over $100,000 from High Swartz and using that money to pay restitution in the New York case.

Bartle says he feels violated by the claimed thefts and tells the Legal Intelligencer that the firm is tightening up its hiring procedures. It will make up the losses to the estates, one way or another, he says.

"We will make all of our clients whole, either through insurance, restitution, a lawsuit or our own pockets," he tells the legal publication. He declined to discuss what litigation the firm might be contemplating.

"Our firm has been around almost 100 years," Bartle tells the Daily News. "I've been here 33 years and this is the first time we've ever had anything like this."

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Paralegal Accused of Stealing From Pa. Law Firm to Repay NYC Law Firm"

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