Law School Professor Slapped Over Unauthorized Practice Of Law, Improper Referral Fee

Frank McClellan, professor emeritus at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, has been ordered to pay a $156,436 judgment.

Middlesex County, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Thomas McCloskey issued the order after finding that McClellan accepted a referral fee in a medical malpractice case which contravened New Jersey ethics rules, which only allow payment of referral fees by a certified trial attorney. Additionally, the judge found that McClellan’s actions in the case amounted to the unauthorized practice of law, which trebled the damages.

Cindy Johnson, the plaintiff in the underlying case, sought advice from McClellan about the med mal case and was referred to Aaron Freiwald, a Philadelphia lawyer who was practicing pro hac vice in New Jersey. McClellan received the $52,145 referral fee when there was a $500,000 settlement in the Johnson case. However, Johnson later found out certain parties weren’t included in her case, so she brought a malpractice suit against McClellan, Freiwald and others.

And, as reported by, this led to the benchslap:

“Clearly, as established by the motion record, Mr. McClellan was interloping in the underlying medical malpractice matter and, as a consequence, was improperly compensated by Freiwald for doing so—without disclosure of the arrangement to the Plaintiff and her written consent to the same—to the detriment and loss to the Plaintiff’s Estate,” McCloskey said when he entered the judgment against McClellan.

William Gold, Johnson’s attorney in the malpractice case, is less than impressed with McClellan’s ability to navigate the NJ Legal system:

McClellan “doesn’t understand the laws of New Jersey with respect to a medical malpractice case, doesn’t understand he’s practicing law in New Jersey and doesn’t understand he was illegally, criminally practicing law in New Jersey, and doesn’t understand he doesn’t have the right to a fee,” Gold said.

So far, McClellan has resisted the attempts to collect on the judgment, and as a result Johnson’s lawyer has filed a motion to find McClellan in contempt of court. But McClellan’s attorney say they are appealing the judgment.

headshotKathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, and host of The Jabot podcast. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).

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