Firm Lawyer Suspension for Operating His Own Separate Professional Association

In Florida Bar v. Arcia, 848 So. 2d 296 (Fla. 2003), the attorney generated approximately $ 62,000 while operating his own separate professional association in contravention of firm policy requiring any fees earned to be submitted to the firm. Arcia received a three-year suspension followed by a three-year period of probation with rehabilitative conditions instead of disbarment primarily because the mitigating factors of remorse, inexperience in the practice of law, and timely restitution of the full amount diverted from the firm were present. Certainly, the facts giving rise to our decision in Arcia are distinguishable from those we see today but this Court made a very important statement as to misappropriation of firm and client funds when we reasoned: Conduct such as Arcia's (i.e., an attorney stealing from a law firm) has been held to constitute grand theft. We conclude that, for purposes of attorney discipline, theft of firm funds is serious enough to warrant disbarment under most circumstances. While theft of client funds rends the fundamental bond between a lawyer and the client, theft of firm funds breaches the trust that law firms must place in their attorneys as professionals to act as representatives of the firm. 848 So. 2d at 299-300.