Perfectly Matched Client and Attorney = Another Successful LRIS Referral

By Emmy Pasternak, LRIS Outreach and Case Development Manager

Mixing family matters with business matters can strain even the closest of relationships. The additions of a step-family, a church, various real estate holdings, possible elder financial abuse, and an inheritance, brought one family to the breaking point.

In 2013, a client contacted the Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS) and conveyed to the interviewer that he was the administrator of his father’s estate when his father passed in 2008.

In the ensuing five years he had been in a protracted fight with his stepmother and siblings over the estate, which included several real estate holdings and a family church. Though he had previously been represented by counsel, he was currently representing himself and a trial was just weeks away. Stressed and cognizant of the fact that continuing in pro per was not to his benefit, the client sought the professional assistance of an LRIS attorney. LRIS probate attorney James O’Neil agreed to meet with, and ultimately represent the client.

Stepping into a case with multiple participants and from a client who spent much of the time acting as his own attorney, O’Neil and his partner John Rueppel found, “the client represented himself quite well but understandably, there were neglected causes of action that needed to be addressed immediately. When we took the case, we quickly realized that there were additional claims we wanted to bring on the client’s behalf, and in particular, a claim for financial elder abuse.”

James O'Neil and John RueppelAfter two attempts, O’Neil and Rueppel won court approval to amend the initial complaint. Additionally, O’Neil found counsel for the client to certify him as the personal representative of the estate and to add the estate as a defendant. This clever move opened the door to discovery and depositions which strengthened their position significantly in settlement discussions.

Initially, the client’s first attorney was only able to secure an offer of $5,000. After three trial continuances and nearly two years of work on the part of O’Neil and Rueppel, the case settled for $275,000 on the day of trial.

LRIS facilitated a perfect attorney match for the client.

About the Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS)
LRIS is a revenue generating program, the proceeds of which help to support the Justice & Diversity Center programs.  For information on how to join LRIS, please visit our website . Read more about our program, download panel applications, and view attorney testimonials.  You may also contact LRIS Membership Coordinator, Yvonne Ng, at 415-782-8951 or yng@sfbar.org for direct service.