Whether done out of kindness or not, advancing money to cash-strapped clients remains a no-no, and it earned one New Jersey lawyer a censure when he acknowledged doing it after already having been disciplined for it.
The state Supreme Court on March 29 issued a censure to Cherry Hill solo Barry Beran, who had consented to that measure of punishment with the Disciplinary Review Board (DRB).
Complicating matters, Beran apparently failed to keep close tabs on what he'd lent versus how much he owed once a judgment came in, according to the DRB's Feb. 25 memorializing the agreement.
The letter said Beran advanced $18,849 in personal funds to three clients, and lent other sums to the widow of and heirs to a man who died in an accident and whose estate was the subject of a wrongful death case handled by Beran.
Beran also made payments to the heirs' creditors, according to the letter.
The wrongful death matter settled for $115,000, but the ensuing disbursements were made over five months and not done in the proper amounts, the letter stated.
"As a result of respondent's deficient records, he was unable to substantiate the total amount of advances he had made against the proceeds of the lawsuit," the DRB said. "He thus, admitted that, because he had failed to maintain adequate records of the advanced funds, he negligently misappropriated a portion of them by failing to distribute the correct amount to [the clients]."
According to the letter, Beran also admitted to failing to maintain client ledger cards, leading to "inactive balances" in his trust account that weren't detected because he did not perform monthly account reconciliations.