18
Aug

MESSAGE TO THE DIY LAWYER: STOP PRESENTING THE WRONG EVIDENCE (OR DON’T BLESS JUDGE)!!

Today was a good DIY Lawyer day.  Actually every day I wake up and get up is a pretty good day, but today was a little better than usual in dealing with do-it-yourself lawyers, because one of my prospective clients previously handled a matter on his own which allows me to illustrate the point — “don’t bless the judge.”

My new client is a well-presented and handsome black man who happened to have his own business and was unfortunately going through a contentious divorce (“contentious divorce,” is that redundant or a double negative?)    While telling me about the problems that required my attention, he related to me his prior effort to represent himself in family court which eventually had him in shackles and  jail because he failed to adhere to an order that made little or no sense and was impractical from his point of view.   The order required him to pay a mortgage on an upside down house that was in foreclosure, many months behind in payments.   His position was that, in addition to not being able to afford the monthly payments, it made no sense to give his wife — they still lived together — a month’s mortgage money when the bank would not accept it while the owners were nearly a year in arrears.  Add to that the house was not worth keeping since it was valued at $30,000 less than the debt.

He did not pay it and found himself in jail.  However, his failure to follow the Judge’s order was probably not the real reason he was “in jail with criminals.”  It probably had more to do with the record he created or the evidence he provided the Judge when he responded to the court’s ruling with great displeasure.  In other words, our DIY lawyer  had “blessed” the judge.

For those who are uninformed, to “bless” is simply a less vulgar way of “cursing out” someone.  It is a strong verbal expression of anger and displeasure without the “mofos,” “shits,” “#*@(#Y@” and other expletives.  Needless to say,  “cursing” or “blessing” the judge out, no matter how much you dislike the ruling, is a very bad idea for at least five several reasons:

1. Power relationships.  As I have been drilling into my kids since they were old enough to disobey orders, be sure that you understand and are able to manage the power relationships of every situation.  In the case of my kids, “I am in power, they are not.”  In the case of being pulled over by a police officer in the middle of the night on a dark road, he has the gun, the motorist does not.  In my client’s case, the judge is the only one in the courtroom who has the power to give the order.  You must manage that relationship, not destroy it.

2. You’ll be back.  Especially in cases of preliminary or pendente lite orders you will possibly be back before the same judge and you have already made an impression on her that she will not forget.  Judges understand frustration in marital matters, but few judges, at least the human ones, are likely to accept a verbal beating without flexing a little power relationship muscle.

3.  No need to break the record.  Most non-lawyers believe the prime objective in Court, especially in emotionally charged matters,  is to get what you want or some close facsimile thereof.  Consequently, if they don’t get what they want, which is often to address or redress an emotional grievance, they become very angry and sometimes they cannot contain themselves.  Such individuals would do much better if they understood that they are in part of a process and the more important thing is to create a favorable record that can be used throughout the process.  Court hearings are recorded. As your own representative, the best thing you can do in court is present the facts, evidence and your positions coherently, clearly and with decorum.  No need to create a record that shows you as an angry fool, in part because someone else who can help you may be watching, which brings us to the next point. Read More →

18
Aug

The DIY Lawyer v. Sleepy Lawyers Shooting In The Dark

The following quote from an article by Paul Lippe, the founder and CEO of  LegalOnRamp, in an ABA article, “How Many Clients Do Sleepy Lawyers Hurt,” caught my attention as I was just about to take a 10-15 minute regenerative nap during lunch time:

Despite the basic “quality” proposition of elite law firms—that using a sophisticated firm reduces risk—actual evidence seems to overwhelmingly run in the opposite direction—all of the huge losses in mortgage-backed securities or in M&A, for example, were in deals led by elite law firms. We add clauses, we suggest tactics, we assert positions—but almost nothing we do as lawyers has any real ‘evidence’ behind it. More often than not, we default to the three Cs”—greater complexity, greater caution or greater control for our side must be a good thing. And when it comes to evaluating new ways of delivering legal services, the analogue to evidence-based medicine (Do legal process outsourcers hurt or improve quality of service? Does knowledge management reduce costs?) we operate with little or no evidence.

It is hard to disagree with Mr. Lippe, especially if you believe that there is room for the DIY lawyer and for significant change, especially towards standardization, in the delivery of legal services.  A lot of  “big firm” lawyering is guess work without a solid basis in reality or a real understanding of what will solve the problem to be solved.  Too often the solution is designed not to be client-centric, but firm-centric as it addresses the problem of the firm’s overhead and need to generate profit by any means necessary.  In this way, guess work is normal and errors are simply the cost of doing business and creating more business in the future.

Doesn’t  this suggest to you that as a consumer you need to be a full participant in designing the solutions to your problem.  More importantly,  most times you need to be sure the solution offered by your lawyer is designed for your problem?  What do you think?

16
Aug

Four Major Mortgage Servicers Get Approval To Resume Uncontested Foreclosures

Via New Jersey Law Journal

Four of New Jersey’s six largest mortgage servicers got approval Monday to resume uncontested foreclosures after demonstrating they have taken steps to remedy improper “robo-signing” and other shoddy practices. Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson permitted Bank of America, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase Bank and Wells Fargo to begin bringing uncontested actions for the first time since December, when the judiciary effectively halted them. A special master, retired Appellate Division Judge Richard Williams, reported that the four institutions had made a prima facie showing that they implemented new processes. The six servicers, which account for a large chunk of New Jersey’s foreclosures, were implicated in the robo-signing charges.

12
Aug

Google invests $18.5 million into Rocket Lawyer

Pro Se legal representation a/k/a The DIY lawyer just got a multi-million dollar boost with Google Ventures’ investment of $18.5 million into Rocket Lawyer.  Rocket Lawyer refers to itself  as the “fastest growing online legal service”  while seeking to distinguish itself from its’ major competition, LegalZoom. Google’s move was definitely not  altruistic.  Currently, Rocket Lawyer, which offers on-line forms and attorney review, has 70,000 users a day and it reportedly has doubled its’ revenue for four years straight to more than $10 million this year.

Google’s entry into the legal arena is a clear sign that the practice of law is opening to new business models that support changes in how services are offered and how much control consumers — or clients as we call them — have over the work product that provides solutions.  What is even more intriguing than the money Google is bringing to the table, is the technology, branding opportunities and demographic outreach.

 

 

09
May

Foreclosures and Loan Modifications In Limbo As Lenders Dump Their Lawyers

The state of foreclosures nationwide is a mess.  It is ruining lives and the marketplace.  There is little relief in sight from the lenders, state and federal legislators or the courts despite piecemeal efforts to ease the pain and destruction of communities caused by the epidemic.   A recent article in the Wall Street Journal reports that banks are firing law firms which they blame for the “Robo Signing” scandal that has revealed the massive falsification of documents for foreclosure filings.  As a result of the scandal and the firings, foreclosures and loan modification processes have slowed dramatically.

In a small way the confusion and delay are advantageous to those homeowners who are not ready to be removed from their homes.  But in most cases, this simply delays the inevitable if there is no financial relief  for the borrower.  Without money, forbearance or substantial modifications homeowners will eventually lose their homes.

The situation is also dire for those who are awaiting loan modification decisions.    Even when the lenders exhibited confidence in (and possibly colluded with) their legal representation, the modification process with most lenders was already long and appeared fraught with fraud.  Lenders already have made the modification process impossible for borrowers —  they regularly lose paperwork from borrowers requiring them to redo the application for loan modification.   The delays generally extend costs and fees for the borrower seeking modification.  And often, once those few borrowers are accepted into temporary arrangements, the lenders conveniently do not receive payments which automatically puts the borrower in default of the modification agreement.  In other instances, the lenders failed to acknowledge the end of the temporary phase of the modification and did not make the modification permanent after the required timely payments as originally promised.

It is a scam of the worst kind which is worsened in places like Florida where the attempt to dismiss attorneys has cases on hold and lenders unaware of the status of the foreclosures.  Unfortunately, no news is not good news for borrowers in this instance.  This situation demonstrates why it is to the borrower’s advantage to respond to mail, including filed complaints, from the lender.

 

08
May

DIY LAWYER LAUGH FOR THE DAY

This is not an anti-lawyer blog. We absolutely need lawyers especially since they provide so much material for good and bad television, and lend themselves well to good humor. DIY lawyers could always use a laugh. Hopefully, today’s comedic post puts a smile on your face and let’s you know that even you, without a license or a law school degree, can put up a temporary shingle if you’re your only client.

06
May

The DIY Lawyer Starting Five: Lawyers Are Not That Bright And You Are Not That Stupid

(Every once in a while, “Represent Yourself – The DIY Lawyer Blog” will drop five of the best and most informative links on you here from around the blogosphere.  We won’t necessarily order them in terms of quality and importance.  Our goal is simply to drop the knowledge while it is hot; how you use it to make yourself a better advocate for yourself and what you believe in, is up to you.)

1.  New York Times: This opinion piece,  A Better Way To Teach Math by David Bornstein is the author of “How to Change the World,” is not exactly instructive on how to represent yourself in a court of law or how to conduct legal research, however, in explaining how almost anyone could learn to reach a college proficiency level in math, it reveals the same truths that apply to learning how to understand the law.  Successful lawyers are not born.  They are no “smarter” than the average Joe or Jill; they are bred with the advantage of having been mentored, parented, supported and provided opportunities that supported their individualized ability to learn.  One day perhaps, when we are not perpetuating   false differences in intellectual capacity, we will understand that the same principal that makes “Jump Math” so successful as a learning vehicle applies to teaching logic, legal research and the myriad of other aspects of law and legal practice: “make the subject matter relevant and “breaks [it] down to its component parts and builds it back up” repetitively until the principles are understood.

2. The News Gazette: The need for legal self-help aids is increasing nationally and some astonishing partnerships are developing to provide low- and no-cost help.  Vermillion County in Illinois has responded to the increase of pro se litigants by starting a legal self-help website (http://vermilion.illinoislegalaid.org). Read More →

26
Mar

A Blog Fighting Plagarism

The DIY Lawyer is constantly looking for resources that can be helpful to help the lay person understand legal issues involved in a myriad of problems and challenges. Ever so often, you across a resource — a book, a tool or website — that is just tailor made for a particular type of problem. Today I found a website that writers (that’s anyone who writes original content to be shared with others) should love and visit frequently — Plagarism Today.

Plagarism Today was started in 2005, by Jonathan Bailey, a self-described writer-GOAT (Geek Of All Trades), who grew tired of the plague of online plagarism. Instead of just complaining, he decided to do something about it and has wound up with quite an impressive body of work including instructional articles, such as “How To find Plagarism” and news analysis. In a minute or two, I am going to check out his piece on “creative barcodes” as a solution for freelancers. I suggest you check it out too and let our readers know what you think.

20
Feb

THE DIY LAWYER STARTING FIVE


Every weekend, “Represent Yourself – The DIY Lawyer Blog” will drop five of the best and most informative links on you here from around the blogosphere.  We won’t necessarily order them in terms of quality and importance.  Our goal is simply to drop the knowledge while it is hot; how you use it to make yourself a better advocate for yourself and what you believe in, is up to you.  Check it out.Legal Talk Network: Famed trial lawyer Gerry Spence, at 80, dispenses some common sense in this podcast.

ABA Journal Law News Now: Last summer the ABA surveyed its readers and came up with the top 100 law blogs, some of which you may find very useful.

ABA.ORG: The organization has a new website with lots of goodies for the DIY Lawyer.

Nolo: Nolo is one of the DIY Lawyers’ best friends as they accomplish their mission to make legal information more accessible to the public. At least twelve of their books can be read on-line for free including the foreclosure survival guide.

NJ.Com:  Every once in awhile it really isn’t you, it’s the court that’s unfairly messed up. In Linden a judge served as prosecutor and jury a little too obviously.

19
Feb

The DIY Lawyer Mindset: When Fighting Back, Avoid Fighting Mad

One of the recurring issues on this blog will be “when and under what circumstances” you should represent yourself in a matter that involves legal issues?  There will rarely be a clear cut answer, but there will always be several issues to consider when deciding whether to engage a representative or to handle a particular matter yourself.   Perhaps the most important consideration will be your mindset — how do you feel about the issue and how does the issue make you feel?

The old adage that “a person who represents himself has a fool as a lawyer” is not an absolutism any more than the statement that “the person represented by a high-priced lawyer gets great value.”   The point at which it is most foolish to represent yourself or to handle a matter without counsel and support is  when you are emotionally invested in a matter.  You say that is all the time.  Then you probably should never represent yourself. Read More →