There is a seamy side to lawsuits. I am sure this seamy side has been around ever since the Medieval days when representatives were hired because they were better criers. In the San Antonio Express News is a report about immigration lawyers who hire case runners, folks who go out and find clients. They lurk at immigration detention centers and refer clients to particular immigration lawyers. The lawyers pay folks to refer them cases. As explained in the Express News report, it is probably ethical to pay someone a salary, who then refers cases. It is probably okay to pay someone $50 per interview, but not okay to pay someone $50 to bring in a client. See San Antonio Express News report (account needed).
In this context, ethics refers to the bar association’s code of ethics. The bar association’s system of ethics is well defined and generally, well understood.
Ethical or not, it looks bad to most laypersons to pay someone to bring in clients, at all. Most of us look at lawyers as representing the keys to justice. So, case running is problematic as it is. It is much worse when a paralegal who has succeeded at bringing in clients starts her own paralegal business with her husband. Alejandra Driskell testified in deposition that she ran cases for three immigration law firms. Then, she went out on her own with her husband, George, to obtain a greater share of the profits. That is the ugly side of law. Practicing law has always been a business, but we like to think of it as something greater.
George and Alejandra opened an office at One Riverwalk Place, a tony place in downtown San Antonio. Things must have gone well for a time, but in October, the Driskells filed for bankruptcy.
Ms. Driskell has been sued by the Attorney General for practicing law without a license. The Driskells hired a lawyer, Amy Monkman. Ms. Monkman refused to respond to the Express-News’ requests to talk. Ms. Monkman worked for $45,000 for the paralegal. For that $45,000, she put her career and reputation at risk. One can only hope it was worth it.