Inside one TV-ad law firm

by Walter Olson on November 9, 2007

William K. Mattar, 43, of Buffalo “has built a substantial auto-injury practice through the estimated $2 million he spends each year on ads produced by CJ Advertising in Nashville, Tenn.” Now three lawyers who worked for Mattar have quit in acrimonious circumstances, providing a look inside the firm’s workings. Joseph Bergen said Mattar had admitted never having tried a case and had never taken a client deposition in the nine years Bergen had worked with the firm. As business poured in from TV viewers, the lawyers say, Mattar stopped using his staff lawyers to screen the cases for likely merit, instead devolving that task on a call center in Tennessee. Meanwhile, the staff lawyers’ caseloads swelled to more than 200 cases apiece, along with which came “increased pressure from Mattar to settle a minimum of two to three cases a week each,” whether or not the lawyers felt the cases were in an appropriate posture to settle. The three are setting up their own personal-injury firm, and Mattar depicts them as disgruntled employees who are misleading clients in hopes of taking away business from him. (Michael Beebe, “Mattar’s 3 trial lawyers quit”, Buffalo News, Oct. 25; “Mattar says lawyers conspired to steal clients”, Nov. 1; Martha Neil, “Former PI Colleagues Now Battling in Buffalo”, ABA Journal, Nov. 1). For some reason the Buffalo-Rochester area has generated a steady stream of colorful stories about law firms with saturation TV-ad budgets, sometimes coupled with factory-line methods; see our earlier coverage of Cellino & Barnes/The Barnes Firm and the now-retired Jim (“The Hammer”) Shapiro, of “hand you their severed heads” fame, who conceded in a deposition that he had never tried a case.

{ 2 comments }

1 Mike 11.08.07 at 10:48 pm

It seems to me the recently-departed lawyers have admitted to malpractice and breaches of ethical duties. A lawyer who settles a case too soon does not act in his client’s best interest, since early settlement does not maximize gain. Funny how they are presenting themselves out to be the victims.

2 Deoxy 11.09.07 at 10:47 am

Mike,

If their boss was threatening to fire them if they didn’t do such, and they quit rather than continue the practice, then yes, they are primarily victims. They shouldn’t have settled ANY cases early, granted, but they have quit their jobs to avoid continuing to do so, and are publicly pointing out the unethical behavior of their employer.

That’s the right thing to do (though maybe a bit later than would be ethically flawless).

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