How Debt Collectors are Destroying the Legal Profession

by Kenneth Gray on July 26, 2012

in Debt Collectors

Say you have to deal with a debt collector. Perhaps it’s a firm claiming to be from the Pittsburgh area that outsources its call center in India. One called my office looking for someone who had allegedly failed to pay a medical bill of approximately $35.00. Classy.

If you are at all familiar with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), you’ll spot two things wrong with this right away. One, the debt collector was willing to speak with me without verifying who I was (no, it wasn’t me or a client of mine, but a rogue collector who could not be convinced otherwise). Two, they made false representations as to who they were (a call center in India cannot teleport itself to Pittsburgh).

Of course, alleged violations of the FDCPA mean $1,000 per violation statutory damages in some cases. It may also mean the joy of watching a Judge put the unlawful debt collector in their place. If you are receiving calls, letters, or worse, threats, from a debt collector, speak with an Attorney NOW. If you think you cannot afford one, you would be surprised as to how many will take your case for an affordable fee as well as how many legal aid resources are available for pro bono representation.

Why am I saying this? Quite frankly, it isn’t enough that the stray agressive collector thinks my office phone is the number for one of their “subjects”. It is that these cretins think absolutely nothing of the law or legal profession. Witness the Craiglist ad below (h/t Zerohedge):


Part time attorney needed (Pittsburgh west). Craigslist.


In other words, they appear to want a robosigner. It says in the ad, “Your job will be to sign pleadings, praecipe for entry of appearances, praecipe for writ of execution, and garnishment orders”. Now, that part isn’t all that bad, in fact it is part of what a collection Attorney would be expected to do. Here’s where the Ethics train allegedly goes off the rails: “WE DO NOT NEED F LEE BAILEY- we are fee shopping. If you passed your boards with a D+, and you can sign your name, you possess all the credentials required for this job.” That’s called a potential failure to supervise, and failure to supervise violates the Pennsylvania Rule of Professional Conduct 5.3(c)(1):

(c) a lawyer shall be responsible for conduct of such a person that would be a violation of the
Rules of Professional Conduct if engaged in by a lawyer if:
(1) the lawyer orders or, with the knowledge of the specific conduct, ratifies the conduct
involved; […]

Just because you were the anchor of your law school class, is a job like this worth it when you consider that the price may be losing the $150k investment in law school, the bar, hours of CLE and your law license? And for some scumbag debt collector ?!? Honestly, there are better non-law jobs out there that will not threaten one’s law license. Here’s how Carolyn Elefant at the excellent blog put it:

Pouring coffee or serving diners certainly isn’t any lawyer’s first choice. But it’s honest work that helps pay the bills – even if it isn’t exactly what you dreamed of doing, or trained for when you were in law school. But by the same token, you probably never dreamed that you might be suspended from the practice of law for signing pleadings based on documents you’ve never read or for causing clients to lose their homes because you relied on stock arguments made by an out-of-state lawyer instead of doing the research yourself. Yet that’s the nightmare that you’ll find yourself in if you sign up for this kind of job.

Good night, and good luck.

Brave Jeweler July 26, 2012 at 2:13 am

Excellent piece, thank you! Debt collectors do, indeed, go off the rails – but that means only one thing – that they’re going to get busted!

Debt Collector July 27, 2012 at 3:03 pm

I dont think the legal profession needed any help “destroying the legal profession”…. but the majority of debt collectors are well meaning, hard working professionals such as yourself.

imagine a world where no one had to pay debts. imagine a world where no one extended credit to anyone for anything because if they were not repaid, there was nothing they could do about it.

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