Law Students

Law Firm Sues University’s Pro-bono Law Clinic
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Brachfeld Law Group has sued Santa Clara University and its supervising attorney, Scott Maurer – mostly out of exasperation–targeting the university’s Katharine and George Alexander Community Law Center. The pro bono law clinic has proved services to immigrants and the disadvantaged. The case at hand involves Brachfeld, also known as Brachfeld Collections, one of America’s largest collections firms in the country, and ACL’s client, a woman who they claim was illegally pursued by the collections agency. The unfair debt collection included such actions as when the collection agency “took her default, then levied her bank account and garnered her wages,” allegedly after she had already paid. Brachfeld’s attorney Jonathan Birdt says that his agency was willing to pay the woman, Blanca Santos, $7,000 to settle the problem with her Sears card, but balked when he was told she would only accept the offer if they paid $40,000 in attorney’s fees.

Birdt is wondering what attorneys were involved. The agency is run by law students. They have sued saying that the “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.”

“Maybe what they’re doing is perfectly legal, but they won’t tell me how. All my research indicates that it’s not,” said Birdt.


It’s not as if he wants to take on the pro-bono clinic. “I’ve tried very hard to do the right thing. I’ve thrown money at them, but they won’t even give a counteroffer,” said Birdt.

“This has just been incredible, unlike anything I’ve ever dealt with before,” he said. “I don’t know what their motive is. When I’ve asked them to explain, they refuse to tell me why they are entitled to attorney’s fees. It’s very frustrating.”

As Maurer, who heads the law school enterprise, replied, “The inner workings of the SCU and the KGACLC are none of your business. If you are going to sue, sue. Know that I will not respond to any further communication on this subject.”

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Birdt claims to be exasperated by the elusive law center, but Maurer thinks his intentions are not so noble, calling the complaint “nonsense and clearly an attempt on your part to leverage a more favorable settlement.”

Brachfeld is seeking damages for negligence and disgorgement of attorney’s fees.


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