I read another Attorney Discipline Report today. The attorney’s name isn’t important (and while the Attorney Discipline Report is a matter of public record, telling you his name wouldn’t do anything except further embarrass and humiliate him), but his story is.
This particular lawyer was first disciplined in 2010, and after the disciplinary order was entered, The Florida Bar received even more complaints—seven in total—against him for similar misconduct to that for which he was previously disciplined for.
Each of the seven new stories from his clients was substantially the same. Each client hired him to represent him/her in seeking a mortgage loan modification, and for real estate foreclosure defense. Each client paid him certain attorneys’ fees for such representation. The lawyer (or others on his behalf) collected legal fees but took little or no action in the clients’ cases or on their behalf. He also failed to keep his clients informed as to the status of their cases.
The lawyer offered no defense to the charges levied against him; in fact, he admitted that he failed to competently and diligently represent his clients, failed to earn the legal fees they paid to him or his designees, and that he failed to communicate with his clients.
The lawyer has been suspended from the practice of law and is paying restitution in the excess of Twenty-Thousand Dollars (approximately $2,850 per client).
Unfortunately, cases like this demonstrate the difference between a Foreclosure DEFENSE Lawyer and a Foreclosure DELAYER and the difficulty people have in finding competent and appropriate legal representation.
Choosing a Foreclosure DEFENSE Lawyer—and distinguishing him or her from a Foreclosure DELAYER is a difficult task. Lawyers and Non-Lawyers advertise their services everywhere—including on-line, in the Yellow Pages, on highway billboards, and through television, radio and direct mail.
The FIRST Challenge is avoiding FORECLOSURE RESCUE SCAMS. Unfortunately, a recent survey by the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (which gives homeowners references to accredited counseling services) found that Florida was ranked second in foreclosure rescue scams.
Willie Sutton, once on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List, earned infamy in the 1930’s as a clever and determined bank robber. Once, when asked why he robbed banks, he replied, “That’s where the money is.” Now, decades later, a whole new generation of crooks and swindlers have set their sights on the equity that Florida families have built up in their homes. Why? Because that’s where the money is now.
Once the bank filed its foreclosure lawsuit against you, your name and address were available to any person who cared to look them up. If you’re facing foreclosure, you’ve probably seen letters, postcards, and phone calls came flooding in offering you all kinds of deals. Most are perfectly legal, even if they aren’t always in your best interest — like the people who want to buy your home for a small fraction of what it’s worth. But every year more and more people get sucked into schemes and con games by people who want nothing more than to steal their money, their house, or both.
Florida has enacted legislation against those who prey on foreclosure victims, but the sad truth is that itmay be hard to tell the legal offers from the scams, and it’s definitely hard to figure out which offers hurt you more than they help.
To help homeowners distinguish fact from fiction and fantasy from reality, we’ve compiled a list of warning signs about Foreclosure Rescue Scams and included it in our Free E-Book entitled, A Consumer’s Guide to Defending Your Florida Foreclosure which you can download at http://ricardolaw.com/guide/
The SECOND Challenge is distinguishing between Foreclosure DEFENSE Lawyers and Foreclosure DELAYERS.
There are lots of lawyers who claim to handle Foreclosure Defense Cases, but what you want and need is a lawyer who both understands the foreclosure process and is willing to fight for you to give you every possible advantage when fighting your foreclosure.
Sadly, there are a lot of lawyers out there who think that foreclosure is just another transaction – just more papers to be shuffled around. They’ll shuffle those papers for you, and charge you hundreds of dollars to do it. What they won’t do for you, is fight.
The truth is that just because you find some lawyer, doesn’t mean you’ve found the right lawyer.
Just because a lawyer handles real estate transactions doesn’t necessarily mean they know how to defend a foreclosure case in court – in fact, most of them won’t, because they’re never actually tried a contested case in their lives. Just because a lawyer handles bankruptcy cases doesn’t necessarily mean they know the best way to stop your foreclosure. In fact, too many bankruptcy attorneys have no idea about how to apply the federal and state laws (like the Truth In Lending Act) that could help you break out of an illegal home loan that’s gone to foreclosure.
How do you find a lawyer who knows how to fight a foreclosure case in court, and knows how to apply the laws that protect you? Ask questions. Read up and educate yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask a lawyer exactly what he would do to protect you and your home during your foreclosure case. And make sure you’re happy with the answers.
How can you tell a paper shuffler from a fighter? The paper shuffler will typically promise to “review” some documents, “file” some other documents, and then “attend” your foreclosure hearing. These lawyers will shuffle all your papers for you, but few can actually tell you how any of that helps you put on a stronger case.
A lawyer who’s willing to fight for you, though, will tell you all about ways you can fight back and will be able to tell you exactly what kind of thing he or she can do to give you the maximum possible leverage to win your foreclosure defense case or at least settle on the most favorable terms possible (loan modification, short sale, deed in lieu of foreclosure are just some settlement options that might be best for you).