Lawyer’s Advice is No Meal Ticket

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A man in Los Angeles who came under scrutiny due to his lawyer’s ill-advised instruction was compensated after six years in a settlement worth about $200,000.

Hwang, the last name the man is only identified by, was involved in a heavily contested lawsuit against another Korean man, also identified only by his last name Park, over a share of business ownership in 2011. The court’s ruling was against Hwang, who had to fork out $648,000 in compensation after losing the lawsuit.

Los Angeles Koreatown-based lawyer, identified only by his last name Jeong, represented Hwang at the time.

However, Hwang later discovered that Jeong committed a critical error while performing his duties.

Although the court ruled that Hwang has to compensate Park, the final ruling erroneously stated that he must compensate the company which he has lost the ownership of.

“I noticed that $115,000 was withdrawn from my business account after I lost the lawsuit,” Hwang said. “I realized afterwards that the final ruling contained an error, but my lawyer didn’t even submit an objection. My business had to suffer because of a lawyer’s mistake.”

Taken aback by the unexpected financial loss, Hwang began reviewing his trial process.

“Jeong first told me that $40,000 was all I needed to spend on the case,” Hwang said. “After I accumulated the total cost of what I’ve spent on it, the sum actually exceeded $100,000. I’ve never even received an invoice that detailed the additional cost.”

Hwang added: “Jeong also told me that he will partner with an American lawyer for this case, but I found out on my own later that he partnered with someone whose license was suspended twice and told me nothing about it. This is not at all ethical.”

After making those disturbing discoveries, Hwang filed for a malpractice lawsuit against Jeong at the L.A. Superior Court in April 2014.

The case proceeded for almost two years until the court finally ruled that Jeong must compensate $200,000 to Hwang.

Hwang’s case best exemplifies the need for anyone involved in a legal battle to grasp a comprehensive understanding of the trial’s details.

Legal experts advise that simply abiding by a lawyer’s advice must be avoided.

“Many common Korean-Americans simply expect their lawyers to take care of everything after they delegate the duty to the lawyers,” said a lawyer based in L.A. “It’s important for them to be actively involved in the lawsuit as it is ultimately their case and to carefully check and review every detail alongside the lawyer.”

As of February 2017, more than 200,000 lawyers are registered by the State Bar of California (SBC). The SBC has made an in-house policy to prevent lawyers’ mistake from enlarging the clients’ losses.

“Through Client Security Fund (CSF), we compensate up to $100,000 clients who’ve suffered a loss due to a mistake of a SBC-registered lawyer,” said an anonymous source close to the SBC. “When such a case occurs, the affected lawyer could also be penalized.”

Meanwhile, clients can confirm the activity history, member affiliations and penalty records of lawyers in California via calbar.ca.gov.

By Yeol Jang

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