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Two Florida men have been arrested in connection with a Craigslist scheme which involved using lawyers' names and bar numbers without permission to provide loan modification and foreclosure defense services. Can anyone say "unauthorized practice of law"?
Currently, an injunction is being sought at the Florida Attorney General's office to enjoin Joseph Anton Hilton and Adam Forman of Parkland, Florida from using other individuals' bar credentials to secure business, according to a press release. The details of the two mens' crimes go something like this. Both Hilton and Forman ran a number of phony law firms and used the names and bar numbers of attorneys they recruited through Craigslist.
The two men have set up other phony law firms under a variety of names: Liberty Law Group, Consumer Legal Resources, Consumer Legal Advocates, Legal Referral Services, and many others, according to the ABA Journal.
The lawyers were described by Florida's AG as "unwitting ... 'front men'" in these phony law firms. "The homeowner clients believed these licensed attorneys were representing them when, in fact, the attorneys had absolutely no idea the clients even existed."
How did the lawyers' names and bar numbers come to be used? The lawyers are recruited on an independent contractor basis through Craigslist and are told that all pleadings are handled by the "firm" through form templates. The lawyer does minimal work -- so minimal that they have no contact with the client.
Be Careful Where You Find Legal Work
The AG's complaint goes on to explain how the scam could continue. "When the contract attorney realizes something is amiss," the complaint says, "the enterprise quickly moves on to the next unsuspecting and often brand-new lawyer."
This could be a good reason to refrain from putting our name out there as a lawyer on Craigslist. Lawyers have been known to advertise in strange places. But online, you can never be too careful where you find your legal work.