Barak Lurie – Handling a Refund Request

After Barak Lurie and co-council had made no progress in solving the case but used up $15,000 in fees nevertheless and now asked for another five kilo dollars my co-defendant and I decided to look for another lawyer.

Don’t know about this new lawyer’s motivation but when he looked over what had been done, he more or less said we should ask for out money back. As this only confirmed out own assessment of the situation we wrote a polite email to Mr. Lurie, asking for a return of out money.

The reaction? – Nothing, nada, zilch, null!

Things got exciting and hectic and we were not able to follow up on our demand. Don’t think we would have been able to take on another fight on a different front while fighting the five-hundred pound gorilla called the DOJ.

But when things calmed down somewhat – they are still not over – we renewed our demand about a year later. As it was obvious, from our previous experience that Barak Lurie would not just agreed with us, we added a bit more urgency into our demand by drafting a bar complaint and told Mr. Lurie that we would go public with our experiences with him.

The reply was interesting:

… You should understand that your written letter (which you actually signed) constitutes extortion, a criminal offense. Posting libelous statements on the Internet would also place you in a precarious legal position.

Mr. [withheld], I do not respond well to threats. Had you simply contacted me and discussed this matter, we could certainly talk. Nevertheless, your “vinegar” approach to dealing with me does not work, and I suspect does not work well with other people. I have reviewed the file and none of the accusations you make have merit.

Moreover, you owe this firm more than $3300, which I have not pursued up to this point. Even if you had a viable claim for malpractice (which you do not), it has now expired. The statute of limitations for any such claim passed a year after we substituted out as counsel, and that was now over 1-1/2 years ago….

But, but, but, Mr. Lurie – we did ask kindly and you just ignored us. I suppose you knew that at that time we would not be able to pursue our demands, right?

And extortion? I believe that was the chain rattling because in later communication you were educated by us that this was called a ‘settlement offer’ and dropped the pretense that you really thought that this was extortion. Otherwise most negotiations would have to be renamed extortion.

As I was only interested in getting our money back, not really wanting to pursue a payment for damages, and definitely not interested in destroying his livelihood, I continued to converse with Mr. Lurie trying to reach a settlement.

But instead he actually started an arbitration (which was covered in our engagement contract) to collect the amount he claimed we owed him. He had once threatened me (wonder if this extortion too) that he would start to collect this money should I dare to file my bar complaint or post anything on the internet.

Sorry, but as he has now initiated the process of collecting his claim I thought that I should tell the world about my experience, exercising my first amendment rights.

I don’t really understand what Mr. Lurie’s motivation here could be. I would have settled for twelve kilo dollars. Is he really that short in cash that he risks his livelihood for that small amount of money?

There is one more snippet from his answer to my second attempt to get my money back that I just have to share because it is just too indicative of a person who just takes credit wherever he can (without actually delivering anything)…

I do note that you and your wife actually had a good result at the end of the day, reducing liabilities that you were facing from the IRS in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to only $27,000 each. … I do not see, therefore, how you can possibly argue that our representation harmed you. (I understand that you assert you obtained this result by yourself, but that is not relevant.)

What Barak Lurie is referring to is the following. After I had fired him and tried one more attorney I went into the case by myself as pro se. One of the first actions was to sit together with the assistant district attorney, something that should have been done at the very beginning of the case as ordered by the court but disregarded by two attorneys and the government. The government attorney was very reasonable and I could easily convince him that I could not possible owe more taxes for the two years in question than I had actually made. These are the ‘hundreds of thousands of dollars’ Mr. Lurie is referring to. It took two days with my paperwork and an IRS agent to find out that after expenses I would have had a tax liability of  about $ 10,000 which  had accumulated to the 55,000 with interest and penalties (the government had waited 8 years to sue me to run up the tab a little bit more.)

So, it was I as a layman who did this job of cutting down the initial claim of the government. Mr. Lurie had just run up his own tab without accomplishing anything – just the opposite. Had I not fired him he would have let me run into the open knife. And now he tells me that I did good so he did no harm – yes he did – he cost me 15 kilo Dollars – he ripped me off by pretending to be a specialist in an area where he had no clue. This is called ‘adding insult to injury.’

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