EmailShare with:TweetSince the 2008 financial crisis, many malevolent characters sought new income opportunities. This group of people entered the real estate market earlier as loan officers. After the sub-prime mortgage meltdown, they changed their masks towards consumer protection through offering modification services. Quickly, state government acted in favor of distressed homeowners by advising against hiring such characters through limiting such work to licensed professionals - mainly real estate brokers and attorneys.
In the past year, those malevolent characters began advertising legal services, bankruptcy in particular. Advertising as Bankruptcy Papers Preparation Services, they attract clients through unrealistic fees and unfounded promises. Commonly, they target minorities - such as Latinos and Asians - through advertising in community newspapers and targeted web advertisement on CraigsList. In addition, their charge includes preparation of paper work, but never filing.
In a recent case from the Ninth Circuit, the bankruptcy court ordered such a company to shut down operations, pay a fine, and refund back fees charged to clients (U.S. Trustee v. Lapano). In this case, Lapano operated a website based company advertising assistance with preparing bankruptcy petitions. The defender charged $195 for his service. Lapano failed to properly complete the paperwork which affected his clients' cases. The court found his services to be fraudulent and misleading as Lapano was not an attorney.
As an attorney, witnessing such illicit usage of distressed borrowers to generate profits infuriate me. Bankruptcy procedures are complex. Every petition can be used by the court appointment trustee against petitioners. Debtors who are seeking protection through bankruptcy procedures must hire an attorney. Attorneys had attended law school, earned a bachelor degree and trained under senior attorneys. Most importantly, bankruptcy attorneys had undergone special training and testing to be admitted in their selected bankruptcy districts including training on ECF (Electronic Court Filing) and procedural laws on required documents.
Finally, professional legal counseling is a must for any debtor who is considering bankruptcy protection. Attorneys obtain the best possible results at a paced interval shielding debtors from harsh changes to their lifestyles. Moreover, lawyers are held to higher ethical code of conduct through their BAR associations. In addition, many bankruptcy attorneys are willing to work a non interest payment plan with their clients. Thus, if you are considering bankruptcy, avoid falling in profit driven schemes run by non-attorneys.