The Blog Formerly Known As Practical Paralegalism
The California State Bar has closed attorney Walter S. Martinez’ Westminster satellite office, L&M Legal Services, following its investigation of a complaint by the Orange County District Attorney’s office that nonlawyers were running the office by themselves.
“We posed as accident victims and ran a case through the office and never once met with an attorney,” says a spokesperson for the State Bar.
See ABA Journal.
Prosecutors from the State Bar’s Office of Trial Counsel alleged that [Mr.] Martinez had little or no contact with many of the clients at his Westminster office, which handled primarily personal injury claims. Instead, they said, clients’ cases were normally handled, from intake
through settlement, by non-attorney Lisa Marie Tran and other office staff, none of whom are attorneys.
Ms. Tran, the law-office administrator, has been charged with a felony charge of conspiracy (arising from a separate alleged insurance billing kickback scheme which included the arrests of many chiropractors and a lawyer), as well as a misdemeanor charge for the unauthorized practice of law, and has posted $50,000 bail. She faces a maximum sentence of four years and eight months.
As of the date of this posting, Mr. Martinez has not been ordered to cease practicing law and has no history of disciplinary action. However, the State Bar is closing down the satellite office and returning files to its clients so that they can seek new representation.
The news articles do not discuss whether Ms. Tran knowingly or unknowingly engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. I hope that Mr. Martinez posted her bail and hires a good defense attorney for her.