Checkered Jellyfish

That's the route Bernard Silver, a 60-year-old Boca Raton businessman, took this year when he decided to sue his business partner at Cruise & Travel Emporium.

"I couldn't afford $400-an-hour attorneys," Silver says. In March, he enrolled in a plan offered by Pre-Paid Legal Services, a company based in Ada, Oklahoma, that offers a free, one-hour consultation with an attorney, with reduced fees for further hours. Silver forked out $100 per month.

Pre-Paid Legal Services contracts with Glantz & Glantz, a firm in Plantation. An attorney there allegedly told Silver that his case "looked solid"; the Boca Raton man claims the firm agreed to take the case and reduced its hourly rate from $185 to $115. Silver paid the firm a $4,950 retainer.

Livin' Low
Livin' Low
Rx: More Acid
Colby Katz
Rx: More Acid

About a week later, however, enthusiasm for Silver's suit had drained like love from a bad marriage. Silver met with a law clerk in the Glantz offices -- a man who announced that he was not licensed by the Florida Bar but who proceeded to dispense legal advice nonetheless.

"I went home, pissed," Silver says. Then the firm told him "We're not representing you," and he was referred to another attorney. Oh, and Glantz & Glantz kept his retainer.

Silver recently filed a complaint with the Florida Bar and ran a small classified ad in New Times seeking others disgruntled with the world of prepaid legal. He got a half dozen responses.

Firm co-owner Ron Glantz responds testily: "I'm confident that his case was handled totally properly, that we've done nothing wrong or unethical or unprofessional," says Ron Glantz, one of the firm's owners. Still, Glantz has decided to refund Silver "every single penny he paid to this firm" because the former client is "creating bad energy toward our law firm that's totally undeserved."

-- As told to Edmund Newton

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