When you think of "legal aid," most often you conjure up images of idealistic young lawyers fresh out of law school, working for pennies in cramped, dingy offices to help society's downtrodden. But Colorado Attorney General John Suthers says a name can be deceiving.
Suthers has filed suit in federal court against Legal Aid National Services, Inc., commonly known as The LANS Corp. Also named in the lawsuit are LANS founder and president Kendrick E. White, White's wife Jasmine Ewing, and White's half-brother Derrich E. Brown, both of whom assisted with the company.
"With the ever-increasing cost of legal services, several companies have stepped in to offer low-cost alternatives," Suthers said. "In the case of LANS, we believe that the defendants preyed upon lower-income consumers with confusing business names and false promises of legal aid."
According to the Attorney General's complaint, the defendants misrepresented the "legal services" they provided to consumers in Colorado and across the country.
Although the defendants claimed that trained professionals would provide legal services, the complaint alleges that consumers were charged for legal advice by staff with little or no legal training.
The suit further claims that consumers often received poorly drafted documents that were routinely rejected in court. Other consumers received no documents at all, despite paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
The defendants are supposed to have relied upon a no-refund policy that was not disclosed to consumers until after they had already paid.
Suthers claims that the defendants purposely used business names that incorporated terms such as "legal aid" in order to confuse consumers looking for free or low-cost legal services. According to the complaint, consumers who called directory assistance and requested "legal aid" were frequently provided the phone number for LANS.
Throughout the country, the defendants purchased local phone numbers so that consumers believed they were dealing with a local entity when, in fact, their call was routed to the defendants' Colorado offices. The complaint alleges that LANS' sales representatives were trained to answer the phones with the words "legal aid" to further confuse consumers.
A Temporary Restraining Order has been issued by Denver District Court Judge Robert McGahey, freezing the defendants' bank accounts and preventing them from advertising or accepting money for "legal services" of any kind.