Woman learns attorney's license suspended after hiring him

Knoxville woman learns attorney's license suspended after hiring him

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"I know the legal profession is very much regulated by ethics. I just don't think he should have the right to practice law anymore," Cheryle Trent said. "I know the legal profession is very much regulated by ethics. I just don't think he should have the right to practice law anymore," Cheryle Trent said.

By DON DARE
6 On Your Side Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A Knoxville woman called 6 On Your Side after her attorney failed to file divorce papers, despite being paid.

When Cheryle Trent's attorney, Samuel Franklin Lain, didn't answer her calls, she became suspicious. She did some investigating and found his work left a lot to be desired.

Cheryle paid Lain in June to handle her divorce. It was to be an uncontested case. Some property is involved, but there are no children.

"I gave him $300 in cash at the time that I met him, all my information, all my husband's information," Cheryle said. "He wrote up the papers then emailed me. I signed them. Then I mailed a check for the other $110."

As soon as she received the papers, Cheryle wrote a check to Lain. He charged a flat fee of $410.

In Knox County, divorce cases are filed in the 4th circuit court. "Well he said he would file these papers to get the clock ticking," Cheryle said. "Then after these papers were filed, we would all get together and do more paperwork to decide who gets what."

But the papers involving Cheryle's divorce were never filed at the courthouse. So she called her attorney. Still he didn't work the case.

After a while, Cheryle says Lain stopped returning her calls. She couldn't visit him because he has no office.

Cheryle went online to the The Board or Professional Responsibility for the Tennessee Supreme Court, the group that supervises the conduct of attorneys.

When she entered Lain's name, it shows his license is suspended. It happened in late August. According to the board, Lain can't practice law in Tennessee until he's reinstated.

The record shows Lain's licence was suspended because he violated the mandatory IOLTA (Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts) rule.

East Tennessee Legal Aid Executive Director Dave Yoder explains what it means. "Lawyers take fees from clients, judgements or any number of sources and place those fees in trust accounts that are separate from the operating expenses of their own income."

Last year, the supreme court changed the rules so IOLTA in Tennessee is what we call comprehensive. Every lawyer is required to participate.

Last week, 6 On Your Side visited Sam Lain in Oak Ridge. He says he's been in poor health since early summer.

Lain says he's expecting to have surgery soon and is not sure what he's going to do about the IOLTA violation. However, he did say he'd like to return Cheryle's money to her.

Cheryle says Lain told her the same thing in July, before he stopped answering her calls. "He's obligated to do a job. I know the legal profession is very much regulated by ethics. I just don't think he should have the right to practice law anymore."

If your attorney isn't working on your case, send a polite but firm letter laying out your concerns. That should get some attention.

One thing you don't want to do is threaten to file a malpractice lawsuit. Such threats will probably make your attorney defensive rather than attentive.


 If you have a consumer issue, call the 6 On Your Side Hotline at 865-633-5974.

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