Check Your “Attorney’s” Bona Fides! (Don’t be an April Fool.)
“I thought he was a licensed attorney.”
“I thought a paralegal could advise and represent me.”
“He said he knew Oregon law.”
If you hire someone who claims to be an attorney, or who hedges when asked, trust your instincts, because when your instinct detects hedging, your instinct is often a whole lot sharper than you are at the moment. It doesn’t mean it is right, just that it isn’t bothered with “being nice” or any other need to please. Be the adult and stay in charge of the situation.
“Are you a licensed attorney in this state” is a yes or no question.
The answer should not be “uh, huh, or uhhhhhhh,” or, “ummm, uh uh, how are you today?” or “sort of,” or any variation on that theme.
The answer should either be “NO” or “YES” and “here is my bar card so you can check with the Oregon State Bar.” And then CHECK with the Oregon State Bar! Call them or check their website, for heaven’s sake.
See this case, MBNA v. Garcia, Oregon Court of Appeals, April 1, 2009
Excerpt: “… Acting on a recommendation from his former wife, defendant “retained” a man named Barlow to represent him, believing Barlow to be a licensed attorney. Barlow was not licensed to practice law. Apparently, he advised defendant that defendant could favorably resolve the collection matter by demanding that plaintiff submit the claim to an arbitrator, Alta Arbitration Associates, working out of Billings, Montana, which would invoke certain obscure legal theories to invalidate the debt. Defendant followed that advice. Alta Arbitration Associates, which apparently relied on theories it obtained on the Internet, was not one of the fora approved in the agreement between the parties. Plaintiff refused to participate. Alta Arbitration Associates then rendered a “judgment” in defendant’s favor and bestowed on him an “award” of $62,765.46 plus interest and costs. When defendant, still “represented” by Barlow, attempted to enforce the “judgment” from Alta Arbitration Associates in federal court, the court twice dismissed the complaint….” (read full case)
Need to find an attorney? Read this blog post.
Need to find an attorney who practices law in another state? Check with that state’s attorney licensing body: A Compilation of State Lawyer Licensing Databases, by Andrew Zimmerman and Trevor Rosen, Published on January 19, 2009