A senior lawyer who stole nearly $200,000 from clients of two law firms has been sentenced to prison despite being pregnant.

Emma Jane Garnett, 35, pleaded guilty to six counts of false accounting and two of using a document for pecuniary advantage.

The North Shore woman was sentenced to three years in prison by Judge Anne Kiernan in the Auckland District Court.

She is three months pregnant.

Garnett immediately appealed against the sentence, but was denied bail by Judge Kiernan.

She then spent two days in custody before the Court of Appeal freed her on bail until her sentence appeal is heard.

But the judges warned Garnett she could still end up in prison.

Her lawyer, Barry Hart, said the grounds of the appeal were that the jail sentence was "manifestly excessive" and that she should have received home detention, "particularly when you consider her family circumstances".

Garnett was an associate, then a partner, in a prominent Auckland law firm before her crimes were discovered in August 2007.

The Auckland District Law Society has suspended her from practising as a solicitor.

Over five years, Garnett worked for two prominent law firms and fraudulently transferred $194,586.27 from four clients into her bank accounts.

The identity of the clients and the firms is permanently suppressed.

Between March 2002 and July 2007, Garnett, who was making a six-figure salary, wrote cheques on clients' bank accounts without authority.

In some cases she would cash the cheques, but usually she would deposit money into the law firms' trust account.

Then she would write false receipts from accounts she had access to - BNI New Zealand, Aquamarine Investments and Emma Uvhagen.

The money would be paid into four bank accounts that she controlled.

She took nearly $140,000 from one client.

On other occasions, Garnett wrote cheques to pay bills for her accountant, accommodation and personal finance debts.

Detective Marty Laagland said the fraud was discovered after Garnett left the first law firm in April 2007.

"When we started investigating, we established shortly after that she continued her offending almost immediately after starting at the new law firm," Mr Laagland said.

He believed Garnett has not shown genuine remorse. She had sent a letter expressing remorse to her victims more than 18 months after her arrest - and one week before she was to be sentenced.

"I look forward to victims finally being able to put this matter behind them," Mr Laagland said. "However, the appeal has delayed this further."

In the months after Garnett's arrest in August 2007, her name, occupation and even the charges were kept suppressed.

Her name suppression was lifted last July when Justice Geoffrey Venning dismissed an appeal from lawyer Greg King, for Garnett, in the High Court. Suppression of the law-firm and client identities was not lifted.

Mr King claimed naming his client would affect her health, the health of her newborn son and the health and reputation of her mother, Taupo District councillor Kathryn Uvhagen.

But Justice Venning ruled there were no particular reasons for prohibition of publication of Garnett's name.

BABIES BEHIND BARS
* Two babies are now with their mothers in prison.
* Women in prison can keep babies until they are nine months old. A law change last September lifted the limit to two years, but is not expected to come into force until the middle of next year.
* Once a child reaches the age limit, he or she is taken by family members or put into Child, Youth and Family care until the mother is released.
* Inmates who are pregnant or have a baby can apply to live in the self-care units or use the feeding and bonding facilities in Auckland Region Women's Correctional Facility, Arohata Prison in Wellington and Christchurch Women's Prison.