Lawyers Are Really Gullible, Apparently

We all get the emails that offer to send us a lot of money if we will wire a bunch back to the client right away. Most of us are not idiots, so we mark the emails as spam and move on. But an alarming number of lawyers look at the same emails and think “sweet, a wealthy African prince wants to hire me!”

But federal investigators say the scams are so elaborate — and targeted to mimic the way many lawyers now get online client referrals — that attorneys continue to fall for them.

I was always told to wait at least 10 days after depositing a check into my trust account before disbursing any funds. Maybe these law firms should follow the same advice.

Read Despite Warnings, Lawyers Still Fall for Collection Scam on the WSJ Law Blog.


Get Lawyerist in Your Inbox, Daily

Current Articles
Current Lab Discussions
  • William

    Ten days is not enough. In some of these cases, the checks took weeks to clear. In fact, a law firm took the cashier’s check to Citibank, and was told that it was valid, and that a real cashier’s check existed with that amount with that serial number. It was deposited, and a few weeks later, the firm sent the check out. Then Citibank reversed the transaction saying that the cashier’s check was fake. The fraudsters had actually bought a real cashier’s check, then created a fake version of it.

  • shg

    The problem isn’t check clearing time. The problem isn’t greed. It’s desperation and confusion, the confluence of two very unfortunate trends. Lawyers are doing poorly, and want so badly to make money that they’re open to pitches they would otherwise ignore. Having spoken to some lawyers who’ve been taken in by the scam, they had an inkling it sounded wrong, or at least too good to be true, but they shook it off because they needed the business. Desperation overcame sound judgment.

    The second is the hyping (perhaps better described as a scam in its own right) of the internet as the new magic bullet for success. You know, “hop on the tech train or it’s leaving without you” pitch that so many of our friends in social media marketing love to say to scare the late bloomers and non-digital natives into blind submission.

    They keep hearing the internet is where all the money is being made, and think maybe these ridiculous scam emails aren’t ridiculous scam emails. Maybe this is what all those social media ninjas are talking about. Maybe this is the new normal.

    And they’re hooked.

    • I was also always told never to take a client out of desperation. Maybe that’s even more important than waiting for checks to clear in a trust account.

      • yup. A bad case doesn’t get any better just because your inventory is down.
        Bad cases or clients end up sucking up time and resources.

        Aside from check scams, we are bombarded with marketing calls and emails centered around internet marketing.

  • To excercise objective thinking is the hallmark of a good lawyer. Same principle applies to scam mails should be analysed by lawyers.

  • JPY

    What about ethics and the idea that an attorney is to earn a reasonable fee? These scams tend to be set up so that little, if any, legal services are being provided. And how about paying attention to risks from unknown clients, such as anti-money laundering and not transacting business with parties on OFAC lists? Forward the suspect email to the local FBI and get more bad guys locked up to help our poor gullible, desperate brethren.

    • For some lawyers, a “reasonable fee” seems to mean “as much as you can get.”