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Picking Up the Pieces: Making Clients Whole Again

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Are you an attorney who flips to the back of Nevada Lawyer each month to see who was disciplined, suspended or disbarred? If the answer is yes, then you’re not alone. The actions taken against an attorney’s license – and the facts behind them – are often sensational and widely discussed in the legal community. Next question: When you read about these attorneys, do you also consider what happens to their clients? What about the clients of an attorney who unexpectedly passes away? What happens to them? Although such events involve just a very small percentage of otherwise hard-working, dedicated and ethical practitioners, the damage inflicted on the clients of that few can reflect negatively on the profession as a whole. Since 1970, the State Bar of Nevada’s Clients’ Security Fund (Fund) has been there to pick up the pieces and assist clients who have been victimized. Supported by voluntary donations from annual dues, pro hac vice application fees and individual donations, the Fund is a resource for clients who have been the victims of theft and provides compensation when no other practical remedy is available. In 2011 alone, the Fund investigated 156 claims and approved reimbursement for 104 clients, totaling $190,488.28. The circumstances behind the claims can vary from outright theft of settlement proceeds to failing to provide services for which the client paid. The vast majority of the claims paid last year – 78 – were related to just two attorneys, both of whom had practices focusing on bankruptcy and home loan modifications. The disappearance of attorney Jorge Sanchez1 and the death of attorney Miguel Galvez left many clients without the representation for which they had paid. As in years past, the Clients’ Security Fund was there to reimburse these clients for their monetary losses. However, this year brought an added bonus to the clients – and perhaps to the reputation of the profession as a whole. Several attorneys stepped in and provided support beyond the Fund’s ability to reimburse clients monetarily. Attorney Michelle L. Abrams provided her services to the State Bar of Nevada by closing the office of Miguel Galvez and helping his clients find new representation. Attorneys Corey B. Beck and Jeffrey S. Posin also volunteered to represent the interests of the Fund in U.S. Bankruptcy Court during ongoing negotiations between Jorge Sanchez and the U.S. Trustee’s Office. Additionally, the following attorneys provided direct representation to clients, either pro bono or at reduced rates:2 Stefanie Clement; David Crosby; Troy Fox; Richard McKnight; David Tanner; Joseph Scalia; Steven Yarmy; and staff attorneys with the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada. The services provided by these attorneys ensured continued representation for clients in need. They also helped to preserve the Fund’s limited resources by providing the services for which the clients paid, thus reducing the total amount reimbursed. As members of the legal community, you too are encouraged to assist clients who may have been wronged by another member
of the profession. There are simple steps you can take to assist victims of attorney theft including: • Attempting to recover the client’s file and determine what services were rendered, if any; • Determining if the client is entitled to compensation through a malpractice claim or creditor’s claim in estate; • Encouraging the client to file a police report and/or a claim with the district attorney’s office in your jurisdiction; • Assisting the client in completing the Clients’ Security Fund Application for Reimbursement as thoroughly as possible (include copies of relevant documentation); • Providing continued representation either pro bono or at a reduced rate; and/or • Referring the client to a pro bono legal aid provider in your area. The Clients’ Security Fund is a fund of last resort and clients may apply for reimbursement only after exhausting all other remedies. All claims are assigned to an attorney on the Clients’ Security Fund Committee and are investigated to determine what amount should be reimbursed. The committee meets twice a year to consider filed claims, and all reimbursements are at the sole discretion of the committee. For more information about the Clients’ Security Fund and how to refer a client who may qualify for reimbursement, visit our webpage at
2011 APProVED ClAImS
Attorney Name Steven Altig Stephen C. Amesbury Troy Baker Anthony Blackwell Edmund Botha Douglas H. Clark Jeffrey Heath Miguel Galvez Alex B. Ghibaudo James Jensen Valner Johnson Joshua Landish Carl Lovell Manuel Montelongo Gerald Phillips Jorge Sanchez Philip Singer Dani Stephens Status
(previously suspended)
Awards 1 2 3 1 1 1 7 29 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 49 1 1
Awarded $1,250 $2,365 $39,895.59 $500 $13,714.56 $1,550 $6,102 $23,443 $500 $900 $6,500 $2,500 $13,500 $3,685 $3,000 $68,787.53 $795.60 $1,500
Deceased Disbarred
(previously suspended)
Suspended Discipline/CLE Suspended CLE Suspended Deceased Discipline/CLE Suspended Dues/Admin Suspended Disbarred Deceased Deceased Disbarred Deceased Suspended Discipline/CLE Suspended Deceased
Nevada Lawyer
January 2012
Total: $190,488.28
Clients’ Security Fund Committee
John Shook, Chair Edwin A. Keller, vice-Chair Ross Goodman Nathalie Gottschalk Jon S. Greene Harvey Gruber Jennifer Henry Vernon (Gene) Leverty Janet Pancoast Jeffrey S. Posin Carl B. Weller W. Chris Wicker
lisa mcGRanE’s BioGRaphy can BE found on paGE 46.
1 Jorge Sanchez’s license was temporarily suspended, effective June 23, 2010. 2 List includes attorneys known to the Clients’ Security Fund.
January 2012
Nevada Lawyer
This document is © 2012 by jsmith22 - all rights reserved.
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