Much has been written about debt settlements handled by both attorneys and debt settlement companies offering this service. I have offered my own rants about the difference between an attorney-run debt settlement versus a company-run debt settlement. There are differences. But did you also know there are different types of attorney-run debt settlement law firms?
I own and operate a San Diego credit card debt settlement law practice. I recently learned that another firm runs things a little different. They hire “of-counsel” attorneys to specifically handle initial consultations and sign you up. Once you retain the firm, your file gets shifted out of state. The attorney you met with does nothing else other than collect a paycheck for signing you up. They won’t have any idea as to what’s going on with your file on a daily basis
Top 3 things you should ask an attorney during a debt settlement consultation
1. Do you guarantee your results? If anyone guarantees you anything, run away. Fast. Nobody can predict the future; much less guarantee a specific result. I don’t like guarantees or promises that if a debt doesn’t settle for a specific amount that a portion of your fee will be refunded to you. That’s an inherent conflict for the attorney. Suppose a debt will settle for a higher amount, but the attorney has guaranteed a lower settlement. The attorney may not want to settle for the higher amount and potentially have to give back a portion of the attorney’s fees already paid. But it may be that the client would be willing to settle for the higher amount. Are you willing to risk that your attorney might not accept an offer because they will owe you a refund on the fees due to a guarantee? Of course we would all like guarantees in life, but that’s not practical. Nor is it ethical for an attorney to offer a guarantee.
2. Who do I call if I want an update on the debt settlement process? If you’re with a firm that hires front office attorneys to do intakes, that attorney has nothing further to do with your file once you retain the firm. The firm you actually hired is likely out of state with back office support. So what do you do if you have a question? Call the attorney you met with and he or she won’t know what’s going on with your matter because they aren’t dealing with it on a daily basis. They’ve been paid by the back office law firm and could care less about your matter. They have more pressing issues with clients that have specifically retained them on matters in their practice area. When a client retains me, I am the point of contact. You get my office line, my email address and my cell phone. I’m available at any time to respond to inquiries. You won’t be passed off to someone else for an update in another state. You won’t be speaking to a person you’ve never met face-to-face. You’ll be speaking with me. That’s the significant difference between hiring a truly local San Diego debt settlement law firm as opposed to an out-of-state firm that contracts out local attorneys to simply handle intake consultations.
3. What happens if I get sued? Non-payment of your debt could potentially lead to a lawsuit being filed against you. A few of the more suit-happy creditors I have seen include National Collegiate Student Loan Trust, Discover Bank, Citi Bank, American Express, and Capitol One. Others may sue, but with less frequency from what I have seen. So who will represent you if you’ve been sued? That family law attorney you met with that signed you up and pushed your matter off to an out-of-state law firm? Even if that attorney will, do you want to trust your matter to an attorney that doesn’t have a working knowledge of creditor lawsuits? Ask the attorney you are meeting with what experience they have working specifically on creditor lawsuits. Make sure you are comfortable with their level of experience in case you do get sued. You don’t want to be the guinea pig for them.
The bottom line is that you have a number of options available to you when dealing with credit card debt. You need to be comfortable working with the lawyer you hire. So make sure the lawyer you choose is the lawyer actually handling your file. Make sure you can meet with them in person, if needed. And make sure that lawyer understands how debt settlement works. Not some back office support staff in another state, but the actual lawyer you are meeting with face-to-face.