A solicitor who stole £630,000 to pay compensation he failed to secure for his clients has been jailed.
Donald Halling, 54, of Central Avenue, South Shields, stole the money from the wills of other deceased clients.
He pleaded guilty to 12 forgery and seven theft charges and to attempting to pervert the course of justice.
Halling, a managing partner of the South Shields branch of Patterson, Glenton & Stracey, was jailed for three years at Newcastle Crown Court.
Newcastle Crown Court was told the married father-of-two was unable to cope with his expanding workload and had fallen behind in dealing with his clients' compensation claims.
Rather than admit his failings to his colleagues, he stole the cash and told his clients he had won them substantial payouts, according to prosecutor Andrew Hatton.
Mr Hatton said: "He had got himself into a god-almighty mess and was trying to climb out.
"The prosecution accept that this defendant did not benefit from these actions, in the sense that none of the money stolen went to line his own pockets."
A total of £630,000 was stolen, with £460,000 given to just one client, the court was told.
Halling even gave the same couple £25,000 of his own money, because he felt guilty about botching their compensation claim.
Paul Sloan QC, defending, said: "He was too proud to admit his failings while working as a solicitor."
Jailing Halling for three-and-a-half years for the offences, which will run concurrently, Judge David Hodson, the Recorder of Newcastle, said: "What you have done over five years is quite clearly a gross breach of trust.
"It gives this court no pleasure whatsoever to sentence you to a substantial time of custody."