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“More Eager I am to Pay a Lawyer than a Crook”: Consumer Law – No Small Matter for Ordinary People

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A Hillsboro Argus, January 8th, 2008, opinion piece by Nick Christensen is (yet another) example of how difficult it is and how much time, energy, knowledge, and creativity people need to solve what should be simple consumer problems.

Excerpt from whole story:

“…. And I called lawyers, none of whom would return my call, probably because this was a small claims deal and I am 1,000 miles away. Little do they know how much more eager I am to pay a lawyer than a crook….”

Mr. Christiansen had the aptitude and the knowledge to know how to fight this fight, but that still didn’t save him from the hours and hours he had to spend on the problem and the worry. If anything, his knowledge of consumer matters made it worse. He knew perfectly well how badly this could turn out – all of us in the business know what we’re up against.

And, reading the Argus story, I was reminded of the Fresh Air, Terry Gross interview with Bob Sullivan, author of “Gotcha Capitalism: How hidden fees rip you off every day and what you can do about it.”

I’ve been working lately on a proposal for my local bar, judges, and legal aid attorneys to make it easier for non-attorneys to respond to small (!) legal matters such as responding to a civil action or writing a formal complaint, but the problem, as every consumer attorney (and public law librarian) knows, goes far beyond that.

Ordinary people, the ones we in public (and public law) libraries see every day, just don’t know how to navigate the maze of purchases or credit transaction gone wrong, missing checks, mysterious charges on receipts, and all those other small consumer problems, that aren’t so little when you try to fix them.

You don’t always need to take legal action to solve consumer problems, but you do need time, energy, communication skills, knowledge of how the system (business and government regulation) works, and more than all else, the fortitude to see the problem through to resolution without losing one’s cool – not to mention, LOL, when LOL doesn’t stand for laughing out loud, but Lots o’Luck!

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One response to ““More Eager I am to Pay a Lawyer than a Crook”: Consumer Law – No Small Matter for Ordinary People”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I am an attorney who just moved here last year and, thanks to Oregon’s “keep out CA” laws, wasted months studying for the bar exam. As I became reaquainted with the arcana of criminal law and tax (two areas in which I will never practice) I kept reading boo-hoo stories about how there’s not enough lawyers to serve the poor in Oregon. Along with articles about how can we get more diversity in the legal community (while only allowing reciprocity with some of the whitest states in the union and very carefully NOT allowing reciprocity with the largish state to the south).

    Hey, OSBAR, here’s an idea! Instead of making lawyers waste their time on the bar exam, how about offering an alternative involving a couple months providing pro-bono services under the supervision of a legal aid attorney or court (or public defender’s office for attorneys wishing to include crim law in their practice).

    I get so sick of reading bar magazine articles about the shortage of pro bono hours and then thinking about the huge waste of talent involved in making lawyers retake the bar exam.

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