Needing a Root Canal, But Not Wanting A Dentist.
So one of the things I follow, or track as the case may be, are comments from potential clients about needing help, but not wanting to get a lawyer involved. There’s are even websites telling these folks to “represent yourself, don’t get a lawyer involved”. For years, I wondered where this came from, why people would think this, and how they came to that conclusion. Were they afraid of lawyers, afraid of being taken, ashamed, or was this fear possibly based upon the billions of dollars spent demonizing the “trial lawyer”. When I was fresh out of school, I was dumbfounded by the idea that I was trying to help those who were at times, avoiding me because I could in fact help. What happened to my profession I thought, to the oath, to “momma’s being proud we didn’t grow up to be cowboys“, and I mean no disrespect to any cowboys (Dallas or western.) One thing is clear in this regard, there are a ton of interested parties ready and willing to tell you that “You Do Not Need A Lawyer”. Tip of the Day: If you need a root canal, you need a dentist.
“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”
The words spoken by Dick the Butcher in Shakespeare’s King Henry VI , have become a sort of rally cry for the misguided, ignorant, and apparently unread. The comment by “Dick the Butcher”, whom Shakespeare depicts as “a follower of Cade, the head of an army of rabble and a demagogue pandering to the ignorant” who sought to overthrow the government. Shakespeare’s acknowledgment that the first thing any potential tyrant must do to eliminate freedom is to “kill all the lawyers” is, indeed, quite a compliment to the profession.
Recent Case Study: About 3 years ago here in St. Louis, a gentleman came through my office whom exemplified this problem. He was in his early 70’s, his health was poor, and his wife had unfortunately passed 15 months prior. He was a quiet man, strong, well spoken, and veteran who proudly served his country and protected my rights. Before his wife passed, they had accumulated about $60k in various unsecured debt due to a failed business, failed investments, and a declining market. Since she passed, her final medical bills and funeral expenses put his obligations up to near $80k. He was living on about $1600 per month with no hope of being able to pay this debt back, EVER. He was a man that had worked hard his entire life, raised a family, and never thought he might be in such a situation. He had been responsible with his money and defied all stereotypes about bankruptcy.
Non-Legal Advice Previously Given: The gentleman had contacted an agency via the internet based out of California who told him he did not need legal help, not to talk to a lawyer, and not to consider Chapter 7, because if would ruin his credit, and that for 10% of the debt owed, here nearly $80,000, they could “settle” that debt for pennies on the dollar, and of course their 10% fee ($8,000). A few months later, they had in fact reached agreements with a few of the creditors, while 4 others had instituted lawsuits, and he was still in debt over $40k. For this service, he paid nearly $8,000, he was still hopelessly in debt with no light at the end of the tunnel, and his credit was still poor. I informed him that for about 1/8th of what he paid those crooks, we could have filed under Chapter 7, and all of the debt would be discharged, and he would be re-establishing credit to the extent it mattered, (insert link on does it matter here). He eventually did so, but unfortunately, he followed the bad advice over the internet, from out of state, from someone who told him not to talk to a lawyer.
Legal Tip: Never listen to someone who tells you not to consider all options. Never Fear Bankruptcy Protection. Learn your options, all of them. If someone is trying to convince you looking around is a bad idea, it’s a good indicator that they want you only looking to them, so bust out your wallet. Lastly, if your in a financial pickle, and you can avoid bankruptcy, by all means avoid it. If all efforts to avoid it have failed, don’t be afraid of the federal “Mercy” that is bankruptcy, and the protections afforded by federal law.
By Guss Markwell