Here in the Berkmyer Newsroom, our goal is to keep you, our loyal readers, on top of the legal goings on in your community. Ever hear the old expression, “knowledge is power”? Like so many old expressions, this one is 100% true. We aim to not only keep you informed about legal news, but we will also give you practical tools so you can apply what you’ve learned. This way you and your loved ones can help make the legal system work for you.
Some of you may find this hard to believe, but sometimes people make jokes about lawyers. Yes, shocking I know. Lawyers do not always have the best reputation. As an attorney, I’ve personally found myself in positions where I found myself defending my profession to those who feel that lawyers can be underhanded, greedy, dishonest, etc… Jokes and stereotypes can be frustrating, but not nearly as upsetting to me as lawyers that perpetuate those stereotypes. Here is a crystal clear example that made my blood boil:
Charging bankruptcy clients legal fees and stealing their money
Susan Taylor Martin of the Tampa Bay Times recently wrote an expose on disbarred lawyers: (http://www.tampabay.com/news/business/for-the-florida-bar-bad-lawyers-are-more-than-a-punchline/2291945). One such lawyer referenced was Angela Morton Armstrong, a bankruptcy attorney in Palm Harbor. Apparently she was charging her clients fees, and either doing no work, or just a small percentage of the work she promised to perform. She was suspended repeatedly times by the bar, ripped of numerous clients, and caused harm for a very long period of time before the bar finally took her license.
This frustrates me on many levels. First of all, so many folks in need of legal counsel are leery of trusting lawyers to begin with. If I didn’t know any better, and I read an article like the one above, you’d better believe I would be hesitant to pay my hard earned dollars to someone capable of doing what Ms. Armstrong did to her clients. So thank you Ms. Armstrong! You just made my job tougher. The Tampa Bay Times probably wouldn’t print an article bringing to light the thousands of attorneys that successfully perform the duties they were hired to perform. That wouldn’t sell newspapers or get “clicks.” It’s a shame that the public’s perception of lawyers is molded by the horror stories they read about, but that’s reality and we have to deal with it. We can all agree that lawyers have a duty to do their jobs, represent their clients well, and behave ethically. However, you, the client, have a duty as well! Living in the world we do, you need to do your research and learn about a lawyer before handing over your money.
So what should you do?
Notice that Ms. Armstrong’s actions went on for years. There were Florida Bar complaints listed on the Bar’s website, flabar.org. All a potential client had to do was search for Ms. Armstrong’s name and her violations would have been displayed. This easy step may have saved victims thousands of dollars.
But why stop with the Florida Bar? Would you buy a car without reading up on its reliability, gas mileage, or resale value? Would you buy a home without looking at comparable home sales, quality of schools, or crime reports? Of course not! We live a world where people go to Yelp before deciding on a restaurant. Why on Earth wouldn’t you find out everything you can before hiring a lawyer? There are Facebook reviews, Google reviews, Avvo.com scores, and awards (like Super Lawyers) bestowed on top notch attorneys that you can check out. These resources may not make the decision for you to hire a particular attorney, but they may certainly steer you away from a bad apple. In a prior article I discussed the factors that should be considered when finding the right bankruptcy lawyer for you (http://berkmyer.com/pick-right-bankruptcy-lawyer/).
I’ve been doing this a long time and I assure you that the bad lawyers upset me every bit as they upset society (maybe more so). My hope is that our readers take the advice in this article to heart. It can save you from a potential nightmare scenario, like those poor clients of Ms. Armstrong. Remember, at Berkowitz & Myer our bankruptcy consultations, whether in person or over the phone, are always free. Just like it costs you nothing to conduct some online research before hiring a lawyer, it also costs you nothing to call us and find out how the bankruptcy laws might benefit your particular situation.
– See more at: http://berkmyer.com/can-avoid-bad-st-petersburg-florida-bankruptcy-attorney/#sthash.h0oahlHR.dpuf