Monday, October 13, 2008

A TV lawyer annoys The Hawg

So there I was, minding my own business and watching television last night when one of those damned lawyers appeared.

Now, I love fast forwarding through commercials with my DVR, but I was watching a "live" show so I had to sit through the sleazy lawyer ad. This particular lawyer was howling about bankruptcies and how they are a wonderful, pain free solution to whatever financial trouble is ailing you.

I, The Hawg, used to be a lawyer. Being a lawyer is kind of like being an alcoholic -- you might be in recovery, but you'll never quite live it down. As I result of being a recovering lawyer, I've come to view attorneys in a particular way. To be specific, I hate them.

How much do I hate them? I'm completely against socialism, but I might be tempted to cheer for any efforts on the part of the government to nationalize the legal profession and pay all attorneys about $40,000 a year (that's about $30,000 more than they're worth). I'd also love to see a Constitutional amendment that would prohibit anyone with a law degree from getting within 50 miles of Washington, D.C.

But I digress.

I don't hate all attorneys, of course. But I do despise about 90 percent of the sleazy, ambulance chasing, scum sucking weasels. That particularly loud, obnoxious attorney who was on television yelling about bankruptcies is one of the worst of the lot.

Why? Because he was lying more than most lawyers. He was swearing that a lot of clients who filed for bankruptcy actually reported improved credit scores (after a number of years). That's only true just as its true to say that eventually we'll all die. Yes, the chances are good that your credit score will improve quite a few years after a bankruptcy is filed, but those who file bankruptcies face from 7 to 10 years of rotten credit -- a period in which it will be difficult to get mortgages and consumer loans for items such as cars, and those loans will probably cost you a hell of a lot in interest if you've got a bankruptcy on your credit report.

The bankruptcy boy was also warning people against credit repair companies, claiming they probably can't help you and they work for the credit card companies, anyway. That's a half truth at best and an outright lie at worst.

If you were to get on the Internet and find some screwy, fly-by-night credit repair service, you're just asking to get robbed. However, there are a lot of nonprofit credit counseling groups that are very good. Here in Arkansas, one of the better ones around is Credit Counseling of Arkansas, a nonprofit organization that strives to help people make budgets and get the debts under control.

Credit Counseling of Arkansas has helped a lot of people in this state and it's one of those groups that I contacted regularly when I was a reporter to catch up on the latest scams, trends and etc. How do you know the good credit counseling groups from the bad ones? That's pretty easy, really -- make sure you're dealing with a local group that has honest-to-goodness offices, is a non-profit and isn't owned by a law firm. The chances are good there's a quality credit counseling that covers about every community in the nation. They're actually pretty easy to find, too.

When I was a lawyer, I filed a lot of bankruptcies. People would ask me what there best option for dealing with their credit problems was and -- believe it or not -- I almost always suggested a bankruptcy. What the hell else is a lawyer going to say? If you go to Best Buy and ask who has the best option when it comes to plasma televisions, you can probably guess what the answer is going to be. Go down to your local Ford lot and ask whether you'd be better served by a Ford F-150 or a Chevrolet Silverado. Get the idea?

It's a terrible idea to ask someone for financial advice when one of the options you're considering will financially benefit that individual. Lawyers love bankruptcy clients because they either pay up front or through a bankruptcy plan and they don't harp about shelling out the cash, either.

Yes, that's what I said -- people who are going through bankruptcy are clients who are motivated to pay their lawyers. Here's the thing about bankruptcies. Most people resent having to hand money to attorneys because they're going through something they don't believe is their fault. Yes, divorce clients are always victims, as are criminals, people going through custody battles and almost everything else. So, they resent having to pay a lawyer to represent them in a matter that was thrust upon them, see?

Ah, but bankruptcy clients are different. A lawyer can make those nasty letters and phone calls stop and can get rid of a heck of a lot of unsecured debt. Behind on your house? A Chapter 13 can get those past payments caught up through a bankruptcy plan. People who file bankruptcies tend to see the value of an lawyer's services and they don't mind paying for that.

And, of course, there are times when bankruptcies are necessary. But, for God's sake, don't go visit an attorney and ask that individual whether there's a good alternative to filing a bankruptcy. The chances are good that lawyer -- thinking about a fee -- will tell you that a bankruptcy is the only way to go.

Go visit with a credit counseling agency first and don't wait until things get out of hand. If you're on the verge of a foreclosure or the repo man is lurking around trying to take possession of your vehicle, then you've let things go to far. Be honest with yourself. Recognize a bad situation before it gets out of control and explore your options before its too late.

Oh, of course, I'd caution against calling an attorney you see advertising on national television. If you've got to hire an attorney, find someone local and do so only after getting some recommendations from friends and family.


just an OldGuy said...

I've never had a pleasant experience with a lawyer, to me they're just a necessary evil.

The Natural State Hawg said...

I've put them in the category of "unnecessary evil" since I left the business back in 1999. I avoid anything having to do with law like the plague.

Someone asked me not long ago what it would take for me to practice law again. The answer is pretty simple -- I'd rejoin the profession in an instant if I was the guy who sued lawyers for malpractice and collected debts from them (attorneys are notorious bill jumpers).

just an OldGuy said...

What if you ran across a real injustice?
Would you reconsider then? said...

What if you could work with Peter Miller in Little Rock, the "Guy with The Smile"?

You know you would like that.

netta said...

great advice, no matter what state you live in.

i had a lawyer once.

i had money once, too.

coincidence? maybe.


la said...

I hate those personal injury lawyers. There's about three of them that advertise on TV here (one used to be a state patrolman, another is a doctor and a lawyer)

They irritate me.

That is good advice...from someone who should know.

The Natural State Hawg said...

just an oldguy -- Probably, but it would take a hell of an emergency for me to run out and hire a lawyer and I'd stick with the few I trust. Consider this -- how many real injustices do we run across during our lifetimes and how many of them are simply manufactured? Truth be told, if you're careful in your dealings and avoid criminal conduct, the chances of needing to run out and hire an attorney are about zero.

Besides, I know enough about the law to handle myself in most situations where a lawyer might be considered necessary. One of the primary advantages of having a law degree is that you realize just what a scam the legal profession is most of the time.

Paul -- Oh, yes. I'd quit my job today if I could work for that grinning paragon of virtue. You know it!

Netta -- Heh. Your attorney was likely satisfied you'd received "justice" about the time you ran out of cash.

la -- Here's what's funny -- I used to be one of those personal injury lawyers. A friend and I would pick up accident reports on Fridays, split the "good ones" and start cranking out letters.

That's just sleazy.

Grandy said...

Tell us how you really feel. ;)

No really, I come to visit by way of Theresa at Bumpy Path (or Eyebald) as she highly recommends your straight to the point objective. I'm glad she did. :)

I have regrettably been spending too much time at home during the days and let me tell you. Those accident lawyers/ambulance chasers make me absolutely NUTS!!

Oh wait...just read your comments. Oops! You were one? Sorry!!