Today’s blog post is about choosing the right attorney. I have had several strange occurrences in the last few weeks when consulting with potential new clients and it boggles my mind. A few weeks ago, a lady called my office saying that she was sued by Portfolio Recovery Associates. She was in a complete panic because she had never been sued before. I calmed her down by explaining what we could do in terms of either defending the case or settling the case. We walked through several scenarios and did a cost benefit analysis and she decided to try to settle. Fine by me. Then she called and emailed the next day and said that she wanted to defend. Ok, no problem. She asked for another consultation, which I agreed to (even though as a rule we only give one free consult) where she bombarded me with more questions about this lawsuit and about her other delinquent accounts. As I always do, I answered each question with professional expertise and courtesy. After the phone call, a few more emails arrived from her with more questions…. no problem, I’ll answer them. This went on for another 2 days. Finally, I received an email from her saying that she hired another attorney who underbid me by $100. I know this attorney and he is not a credit card defense attorney. A few days later, out of curiosity, I checked the docket and saw that this other attorney had filed the wrong response to the lawsuit. It was clear to me that he did not know what he was doing. He will lose a case that a good consumer attorney would have won and it will cost this lady thousands of dollars.
Just this week, a similar scenario occurred. A lady was sued by Portfolio Recovery for $10,000. She had a real estate attorney who had helped her before (with a real estate matter) and she asked him to respond to this Portfolio matter. He sent a letter to Portfolio and then did not receive a response. The lady became quite concerned and called my office for a consultation. I am loathe to review a matter where there is already an attorney in place, but as I was listening, I could tell that the real estate attorney didn’t have a clue about defending a credit card case (as I would not have a clue about handling a real estate case) and I went into detail about what needed to be done. After further review, I discovered that Portfolio had committed a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. I would be able to help this lady, for free (because Portfolio would pay my legal fees for suing them) and I would be able to make the lawsuit go away. The lady was of course thrilled, but, was very concerned that her 20 days to respond to the lawsuit were up. Her real estate attorney had been badgering her into paying him a sizable retainer so that he could respond to the lawsuit. I explained to her, many times, that the law gave her another 10 days to respond and that I would handle everything… again, for free. There were several phone calls and emails back and forth, and then I received a final email from her saying that she was going to stick with the real estate attorney.
For the life of me, I cannot understand why someone would choose a real estate attorney, rather than a very well known credit card attorney, to handle a credit card case. This lady actually chose to pay the real estate attorney a $2000 retainer rather than let us handle the case for free. I’ve heard the saying “you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make them drink” but I have never experienced such a situation where it applied before.
Both of these ladies are going to lose their cases, of that I have no doubt. While we do try to keep representation as cost effective as possible, we do charge what we charge because we are one of the premier consumer law firms in the state. Do you want the best attorney handling your $10,000 credit card case, or do you want a real estate attorney who charges 5 or 10% less handling your credit card case? I cannot answer that question for you, but I am certain as to what my answer is.