Why are some attorneys true professionals and others act like used car salesmen (TV and some Internet advertising firms)? The 2005 Bankruptcy Reform Act required a great deal more work for everyone – including the attorney for the Debtor. As a result many attorneys left the bankruptcy practice completely. Those who stayed found that they had to increase their fees in order to pay for the additional work required. Hundreds of new lawyers mistakenly believe that bankruptcy is just a “fill-in the blank” set of forms. Unfortunately they find that this is not the truth by experimenting on their innocent clients. I mentor more than 100 attorneys who practice bankruptcy – some full time and some part time. I am both an experienced bankruptcy lawyer and a law professor. As such see the attitude of the new lawyer every day. By the time my students leave my class they are aware that bankruptcy is a very complex series of interconnected issues: divorce, corporate, taxes, preferential payment and fraudulent conveyances to name just a few of the hundreds of problems that arise everyday in the world of bankruptcy.
Our firm is focused on quality not quantity. We understand that someone with financial problems does not have a lot of money to pay a lawyer. I am not in the business to rake in as much money as I can. The needs of my clients are more important than the balance of my bank account. Therefore, our goal is to offer excellent legal advice for very reasonable fees. Those fees are based on complexity of your situation and what you need bankruptcy to accomplish. I will provide you the exact fee as part of our free telephonic discussion. My job is to help you figure out how to pay my fees. Unlike other lawyers I do not change my fees from the original quote unless your situation becomes more complicated.
If your situation is better served by an attorney with more experience in certain areas of law then I am very happy to provide you with referrals. I always put my client’s needs first. I believe that every lawyer should have the same oath as physicians: “first do no harm”. Hippocratic Oath
Article & links: Additional information about finding a good attorney.
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The following are just a couple of the horrible tales that I have seen over the last several years. Clients ask why my fees are a lot less than those charged by TV advertising lawyers. Remember these TV ads cost millions of dollars and someone has to pay for them – namely the clients. I am told that the TV firm’s fees were double or triple my fees, plus there was an attempt to use strong-armed tactics to bully people into signing contracts to retain the TV firm. If you are being treated like you are buying a used car – run, don’t walk out of that office. There are also numerous reports about these TV advertising firms that the clients were treated like cattle and, other than at the creditor’s meeting, never saw, or were allowed to talk to an attorney. This is not the practice of law – this is cattle or sheep herding.
The reports go on to say that these folks were not given proper advice to plan for bankruptcy, resulting in them losing tax refunds or money in bank accounts. I have personally seen this sickening result at several creditor’s meeting. It is my opinion that such TV or billboard ads is the prostitution of all lawyers, especially those doing the advertising, and an insult to the honorable profession of the practice of law.
The Arizona Republic, East Valley Tribune, Corporate Legal Times, and Associated Press on CBS 5 – April 20, 2009: ” PHOENIX (AP) — The managers of well-known Phoenix law firm Phillips & Associates are facing sanctions from the Arizona State Bar. Jeffrey Phillips and Robert Arentz where responsible for lapses .. The State Bar, which licenses and regulates the state’s attorneys, says the law firm’s aggressiveness is sometimes directed at its clients and has recommended that the firm managers be temporarily suspended from practicing law.” “The findings really go to the structure of the intake process they have at that firm and how that system is really incentivized to get as many people in as possible without any particular safeguards in place,” said Maret Vesella, acting chief Bar counsel. The complaints range from a potentially misleading advertisement to the company’s reluctance to refund money to dissatisfied clients. Phillips and his associates deny any wrongdoing. 12/16/09:
Phoenix Business Journal/ Channel 12/ Arizona Republic: Phillips & Associates – Supreme Court sanctions Jeffrey Phillips and Robert Arentz: The Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Arizona is recommending that the Supreme Court sanction Jeffrey Phillips and Robert Arentz for violation of the state Bar’s Rules of Professional Conduct. The Disciplinary Commission on Monday recommended that the Supreme Court suspend Jeffrey Phillips for six months and one day, plus two years of probation. The commission also recommended the suspension of Robert Arentz for 60 days, plus two years of probation. The commission’s decision states that … Phillips and Arentz’s business practices caused “actual injury to clients and to the profession”. If the Supreme Court orders the suspension of the attorneys, they would not be allowed to practice law in Arizona during the specified time period. Phillips would be required to apply for reinstatement to practice law in Arizona.
The Arizona Republic: 5/21/10: Robert Arentz suspended for 60 days. “Their focus was on getting people to sign on the dotted line and get as much money up front as possible,” said Maret Vessella, chief Bar counsel. Rather, she said, consumers should expect to meet with an attorney, have that person listen to their problems and receive a fair evaluation of their situation before deciding whether to hire the firm. A disciplinary committee of the Arizona Supreme Court recommended the suspensions, along with two years’ probation for each attorney and restitution of nearly $14,000 to three clients. UPDATE: 1/2011 Phillips and Associates “sells” their bankruptcy clients to David Wroblewski. UPDATE: 2013 – David Wroblewski files bankruptcy for David Wroblewski & Associates Law Center, P.C.; Wroblewski & Associates, P.C. file for bankruptcy. UPDATE: 2012 – Jeff Phillips files bankruptcy for Phillips & Associates Law Offices, P.C.; 2014: litigation pursued against Phillips in Bankruptcy Court (still on-going 1/2015).
My fees are also low because we use technology to process information and all clients are asked to participate in that use of technology (via the web). My clients are expected to gather information in an orderly fashion by filling out as much of the requested information as pertains to their situation. If a client provides me with only part of the requested information, then my fees will have to increase for that client because I am forced to do more of the client’s work. So, the client who fails to provide the names, dates, addresses, and/or amounts on the questionnaire, my choices are two: (1) not take them as clients or (2) charge more for the additional attorney & paralegal time. That does not mean you should not ask questions.
Thoroughness and accuracy are of utmost importance in a properly filed bankruptcy. Inaccurate paperwork can cause you to lose your bankruptcy protection, cost you more in attorney fees defending fraud claims and you may face jail time for bankruptcy fraud. My job it to help you avoid all those problems. So, complete candor is required; and thoughtful and organized questions are encouraged. Also, check out any State Bar complaints against a lawyer.
Go to www.azbar.org. Click on “Find a Lawyer” in the upper right hand corner. Enter the attorney’s name. Click on “activity”. For example: the Supreme Court censured Jeffrey L. Phillips, Phillips & Associates. There were 20 charges. Here is a portion of the summary “Mr. Phillips failed to adequately supervise subordinate attorneys and non-lawyer specialists. Specifically, intake personnel failed to affirmatively identify themselves as non-attorneys and failed to affirmatively offer or provide adequate information concerning limitations on the applicability of Mr. Phillips’ firm’s advertised “little or no money down” payment plans.” Compare that to other advertising firms: Hastings & Hastings – no activity as to David Hastings; or Solomon & Relihan – no active as to Martin Solomon or John Relihan. This research was done March 22, 2006. Again, always investigate any lawyer before investing your time and money.