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Mattar says lawyers conspired to steal clients Firm's boss tells his side of attorneys' departure

Attorney William K. Mattar says the three lawyers who left his firm had spent the weeks before their departure calling clients and telling them falsehoods to persuade them to join their new firm.

Mattar, speaking for the first time since the attorneys left his firm in October, said the three apparently persuaded 106 of his 775 clients to leave.

"The real facts are," Mattar said, "these lawyers were conspiring and working together in this effort to take away as many clients from this firm as they could."

He described as diversions the complaints by the three attorneys about pressures from Mattar to settle cases and the use of an answering service in Tennessee for after-hours calls.

"It's been hurtful to me, hurtful to my firm," Mattar said.

Mattar said his attorney, Ralph L. Halpern, is contesting the issue in State Supreme Court, making sure his firm is paid for each of the clients who left, and said he is exploring further legal action.

"I have not fully explored those," he said. "At this point, I'm focusing on this law firm."

Mattar said he has since hired another staff attorney and enlisted five other lawyers to handle the caseload.

The three attorneys who left to form their own firm -- Dean P. Smith, Joseph R. Bergen and Todd M. Schiffmacher -- said in an article published last Thursday in The Buffalo News that they left because Mattar was pressuring them to settle two or three cases a week.

They also said their caseloads had increased dramatically, that Mattar was using a call center in Tennessee to answer after-hours phone calls and that they had been cut out of the screening process for those calls.

In an interview Wednesday in his Williamsville office, Mattar said he had taken over the screening of calls from what he called the answering service in Tennessee. He said that only about a fifth of the calls come after hours and that he was taking those that needed immediate responses on his cell phone.

He said that the three attorneys knew of his philosophy on cases and that the settling of two or three cases a week was a goal. "The goal of this office," he said, "is to get the best possible results for our clients in the shortest amount of time so that cases do not linger."

Mattar supplied client affidavits, with the names blacked out, that told of getting calls from the three lawyers in the time before they left Oct. 15. Mattar said he locked the three out of their offices on that day.

One client said he was told that Mattar was retiring and selling his law firm, going to his second home in Florida to play golf. Mattar said that he has no home in Florida, that he rarely plays golf and that his intent was to make his law firm stronger than before.

"It was brutal what was being said to these clients in an effort to get them to change lawyers," Mattar said.


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