Two prominent law firms in San Antonio are engaged in a legal battle over whether one of those firms illegally solicited clients.
Attorney Marynell Maloney is representing a number of clients and is suing the firm of attorney Alex Begum.
Maloney is alleging that Begum’s firm committed barratry, the illegal act of soliciting clients.
Barratry is when a lawyer or someone working with a lawyer contacts a potential client, like a car crash victim, and offers to represent them. That is illegal and victims of barratry can collect a $10,000 penalty, according to a law passed in 2011 by the state legislature.
Marynell Maloney said barratry victims can get poor representation from their lawyers.
"Well it's been catastrophic, frankly, for some of the clients," Maloney said.
Her client, Debbie Suarez, worked for the Begum law firm and said the managing Begum attorney, David Adkisson, asked her to go sign up a client.
"I was in shock,” Suarez said. “I couldn't believe that Mr. Adkisson was asking me to do that."
Marynell Maloney client Carrolyn Riley said she was solicited by an employee of a body shop after her car crash and was advised to hire Begum.
"He said this person helped me before and they'll be able to get you a lot of money," Riley said.
Maloney said after accidents, victims look for someone to trust.
"I think a lot of people think they can trust an attorney and that's a dangerous thing, unfortunately," Maloney said.
Maloney's former brother-in-law, Tim Maloney, is representing the Begum firm.
"Marynell's got an excellent law firm,” Maloney said. “She's an excellent lawyer. This is just a wrong-headed case."
He said Begum spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising and does not solicit clients and that Suarez's barratry claims have already been thrown out by the judge.
"It's a classic case of a disgruntled employee who has decided that she is going to get a pound of flesh," Tim Maloney said.
In a videotaped deposition, Alex Begum denied asking others to commit barratry.
"I'm not going to go out and ask people to commit crimes," Begum said in the deposition.
Adkisson said in a videotaped deposition that he had a spotless 30-year career and would not ruin it by committing barratry.
"If that happened I wouldn't be there," Adkisson said in the deposition.
Marynell Maloney said it did happen and she is still gathering evidence.
"A number of people have been victims of solicitation," Marynell Maloney said.
Tim Maloney agreed barratry is thriving in San Antonio.
"I've literally had to chase lawyers out of hospital rooms,” Tim Maloney said. “That's a true story."
But he said Begum is not engaging in barratry.
Tim Maloney said the law that allows victims of barratry to collect $10,000 is bringing scammers out of the woodwork trying to collect money.
Marynell Maloney said barratry leads to poor representation for clients, including less settlement money and poor healthcare.