Law Firms and Legal Plans are Not Equal
Though the debt settlement industry can produce a tremendous boon to consumers, the zeal of many companies can cast a prospective client into questionable waters.
IntroductionDebt settlement companies are prohibited from the practice of law. In her essay for CreditCards.com, Connie Prater elaborates upon the ethics of such a notion, as well as several ways in which companies attempt to evade this precedent. While some have belligerently opted to "ghost lawyer," or attempt to guide the client through self-representation in order ensure their retention and stave consequence, recent developments suggest debt settlement companies are forging strategic partnerships with law firms and legal networks. Commonly, debt settlement companies may propose the option for a "legal plan," or a subscription based, insurance-inspired add-on that to the client's program should they find themselves in the legal crosshairs of a creditor. In some circumstances, a client may apply for a legal plan with no pre-existing relationship with a debt settlement company.
Legal plan providers, however, are not licensed to practice law in of themselves. Instead, the plan-provider serves as a referral source, connecting the client with an attorney in their state. With this process, however, comes significant pitfalls for a consumer. Below are a few areas in which legal plans differ from firms such as Arnold & Smith Law, PLLC.
IdentificationLegal plans often rely upon a cycling registry of attorneys, akin to how Lyft or Uber may connect its drivers. Unfortunately, a client's ability to vet their counsel through a legal plan is virtually nonexistent, as an attorney may be assigned to them involuntarily. Thus a client is left in the dark until possibly the eleventh hour or after it is far too late to consider their decision. Arnold & Smith, to the contrary, are available for immediate consultation and advisory.
In acquiring representation directly through a national law firm, however, a client can thoroughly research and consult their attorney prior to engagement. Here, each party is awarded the opportunity to understand one another rather than force acquaintance in the midst of litigation.
Virtually all law firms and attorneys will be present in some kind of online directory, be it Google or another source. With these listings come reviews and ideally, unbiased opinions about the quality of a firm's practice. Obviously, this a bit more advantageous prior to counsel being secured for you.
Furthermore, it is difficult to establish a powerful relationship with an attorney that is merely momentary. In the event a client needs assistance with multiple legal matters, it is unlikely they will be given repeating counsel through a legal plan. Established firms, on the other hand, allow a client to build powerful relationships with a legal representative regardless of how much aid they may require.
FIDICIARY DUTYEvery attorney is obligated to act on behalf of the best interests of their client. With such a responsibility comes the need to establish rapport with one's client. However, this foundation becomes strain in the absence of research and identification.
Considering the aforementioned ride-sharing analogy, while it may be beneficial for your Lyft driver to reach your destination faster so they might have time to procure more passengers, it is equally important for them to ensure your safe passage and quality of travel. Every Lyft user is required to rate their driver after each voyage, and consistently low ratings ultimately compromise a driver's ability to garner passengers.
In many circumstances, an attorney with a legal plan operates in a similar fashion, with a pivotal exception. Though the pace in which an attorney represents a client may dictate their capacity for additional work, they do not need to concern themselves so much with quality as this metric will possess a smaller effect upon the client's they receive. Certainly a plan provider may consider a client's post-service experience, but this knowledge is rarely disseminated to the client given their counsel assignment was never their decision .
OVERSIGHTPerhaps above all else, it is important to remember the plan provider is not a law firm in of itself. Thus, it is not qualified nor capable of providing any form of management to the attorneys it enlists. The inability to supervise their in-network attorneys likewise sabotages the overall quality of practice within a legal network.
Attorneys registered within a legal plan are independent contractors and again, similar to a ride-sharing driver, are not vetted like an associate of an established law firm. Within such a setting, variance becomes commonplace.
Though it is possible to randomly receive exceptional counsel through a legal plan, it is just that: random. Furthermore, there are no machinations in place to ensure the soundness of one's representation is consistent. The only thing that may be consistent within a legal plan, ironically, is the inconsistency .