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Debt Collection Law Firm Sues Santa Clara and Clinical Law Prof for UPL, Seeks Fees Disgorgement

Posted Aug 24, 2012 7:03 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A law school's pro bono legal clinic is improperly using a clinical professor's law license to collect attorney's fees, since the entity is not an attorney-owned law firm, a Los Angeles debt-collection law firm contends in a lawsuit.

"Maybe what they're doing is perfectly legal, but they won't tell me how. All my research indicates that it's not," attorney Jonathan Birdt tells Courthouse News.

He is with The Brachfeld Law Group, which sued Santa Clara University and Scott Maurer earlier this this week in Santa Clara Superior Court. Maurer, a clinical law professor at Santa Clara, is the supervising attorney for the university's Katharine and George Alexander Community Law Center.

In its complaint (PDF), the Brachfeld firm alleges that the university is engaged in the unauthorized practice of law and seeks a declaratory judgment, damages for claimed negligence and disgorgement of attorney's fees.

"Defendants have violated the Business and Professions Code by engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, and illegally sharing fees with non-attorneys constituting negligence per se," the suit says.

The case apparently follows a federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case previously filed by the clinic against the Brachfeld firm and a client debt collector.

Courthouse News says Maurer did not respond to requests for comment.

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