Friday, August 05, 2011

Attorney Suspected Of 'Renting Out' Law License To Outfit With Ties To Man Implicated In Fla AG Loan Mod Lawsuit Slammed With Emergency Bar Suspension

The Palm Beach Post reports:
  • The Florida Supreme Court has ordered the emergency suspension of a Boca Raton attorney after the Florida Bar said his home loan modification and foreclosure defense business was causing "great public harm." William O'Toole, whose firm Summit Legal Group worked with as many as 3,000 clients nationwide, is prohibited from accepting new clients and withdrawing money from company accounts per the July 25 order.(1)


  • A Florida Bar petition asking for O'Toole's suspension says he is the subject of 20 bar disciplinary matters filed by disgruntled customers. According to the petition, O'Toole's troubles stem from business he conducted in conjunction with non-attorneys in his company where up-front fees of between $1,500 and $3,000 were charged to clients.

  • It is against Florida law for loan modification firms to accept up-front fees from clients, but there is a provision that allows for up-front fees to be paid to attorneys representing clients seeking loan modifications. The Florida Bar has warned attorneys to be wary of groups trying to skirt the fee law by joining forces with a lawyer.(2)

  • In a deposition, O'Toole admitted that he allows almost exclusive control of the office to the non-lawyers who control all the contact with the clients from the initial call to advising the client of the outcome of their case.


  • "I did think it was weird dealing with a Florida company," [one unwitting homeowner] said, "but they told me they had lawyers all over the country." O'Toole was the only lawyer in the firm, according to his deposition.

  • Also implicated in O'Toole's deposition is Randy Baker, who is listed in state records as secretary for the former Boca Raton company of Baker, Kennedy and Associates. The company is facing a state attorney general's lawsuit that accuses it of posing as a law firm and taking up-front fees for loan modifications.

  • Baker went on to a management position at Summit Legal Group. A woman answering the phone at a number listed for Summit referred calls to a Fort Lauderdale attorney who did not return a message.

For the story, see Boca Raton attorney's office was causing 'great public harm,' Florida Bar says.

(1) See The Florida Bar v. O'Toole for the Florida Supreme Court order.

(2) See The Florida Bar News: ETHICS ALERT : Lawyers should be very wary of loan modifiers.