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Law Practice Management

Attorney’s Failed Dream of Revitalizing Pacific Law Center Leaves Angry Clients, Unresolved Cases

Posted Jun 22, 2011 1:59 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Laura Perry says she paid $2,000 to the Pacific Law Center to handle a Chapter 7 bankruptcy for her. But the law firm, which at the time was reportedly operated by Kerry Steigerwalt, never made the filing, she contends.

And, when it last offered her a refund, the 73-year-old tells the San Diego Reader, the total amount of the check was $105. Her blood pressure goes up every time she thinks about the situation.

Steigerwalt, a longtime criminal defense lawyer, purchased the troubled law firm several years ago, with the hope of turning around. Instead, it has been a nightmare that has cost him millions, he has said.

He has brought in another attorney, J. Kevin Benjamin of Chicago, to pursue unresolved bankruptcy cases for clients, taking the cases from scratch for an additional, albeit minimal, fee. According to Benjamin, some 6,000 clients paid at least some fees to the Pacific Law Center but were not provided with service, leaving the firm with total unearned payments of around $3 million.

Steigerwalt disputes that this much is owed to clients, but concedes that the law firm is insolvent, according to the Reader.

The U.S. bankruptcy trustee's office, in San Diego, is investigating, Benjamin says.

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com (Nov. 2007): "Lawyers Claim Law Firm Fired Them for Ethical Objections"

ABAJournal.com (April 2008): "New Pacific Law Center is Dealing With Old Problems"

ABAJournal.com (Jan. 2010): "Pacific Law Center to Close; My Dream Became a Nightmare, Controlling Lawyer Says"

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