Local News

'Lawyer' Accused of Practicing Without License, Pocketing Clients' Money

Posted March 7, 2007 12:11 a.m. EST

— A disbarred lawyer is in trouble with the law, accused of practicing without a license and taking thousands of dollars in settlement money that belonged to his clients.

It’s not the first time Randy Meares, 50, of Wake Forest has faced the problem.

Meares faces six charges of practicing law without a license over a three-year period, following an investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation. His first court appearance is scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Arrest warrants allege that Meares, who was disbarred in 1998, settled multiple insurance claims on behalf of clients, but kept nearly $60,000 in settlement money.

"I'm not surprised," said attorney Root Edmonson, deputy counsel with the North Carolina State Bar, the state agency that regulates the practice of law in Noth Carolina.

Edmonson says Meares’ disbarment stemmed from a similar charge of taking more than $34,000 of his clients’ money. Edmonson said it was likely Meares continued to practice by settling cases with insurance companies out of court.

"These cases didn't go through the court system. Someone would have known it if he had tried to file anything in court," Edmonson said. "I'm just sorry for the people who used him thinking he was a lawyer."

Meares was released on a $25,000 bond. WRAL spoke with Meares over the phone Tuesday, but he declined to comment.

There was no word on whether the insurance companies or victims plan to challenge the settlements Meares negotiated for them.

The North Carolina State Bar suggests you do your homework before hiring a lawyer. The best advice is to ask around.

Talk to family member or friends who have hired an attorney and ask them about their experience, the bar suggested. Also, find out if the attorney is in good standing by calling the State Bar or going to its Web site.