Jury finds Houston man guilty of practicing law without license


Jeff McShan / 11 News

Posted on September 29, 2010 at 12:02 AM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 29 at 9:39 AM

HOUSTON -- A Houston man found guilty of practicing law without a license will be sentenced by a judge later this week.

Harry Patel owned and operated a company located on  Hillcroft called U.S. Immigration Counseling Services Inc.

In 2002, a Harris County judge determined Patel was practicing law and providing legal services without a license and ordered him to stop. But for eight years, Patel continued his illegal activities, said Denis Ducran, who represented the state's Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee (UPLC) in the contempt case.

After hearing all the evidence, a jury found Patel guilty of violating the judge's orders and practicing law 1,023 times.

Many of Patel's clients paid thousands of dollars for his services, only to find out bad information on paperwork cost them permanent residency in the United States.

Gordon Quan, an immigration attorney, said he was approached by many of Patel's former clients who hoped Quan could help fix the mess.

“If they had only come to us initially,” Quan said.

On Houston's southwest side, a part of town that many immigrants call home, the UPLC says bad advice can easily be found.

“Before I became a lawyer I was an architect and working in the construction industry, and I was surprised to learn a lot of people [were] acting as architects without the authority to do so," said Ducran. "And when I became a lawyer I was completely shocked that people were doing the same thing with the law.”

In court documents obtained by 11 News, Patel signed an agreement to no longer advertise that he offers legal counseling, to not represent anyone anymore and to stay away from filling out any legal immigration forms.

Patel will return to the courthouse Friday at 9 a.m., when the judge will announce his sentence.