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It may work in fiction . . .

anatomy of a murder still 3A staple of the ‘legal thriller’ – both movies and television, from Anatomy of a Murder through The Lincoln Lawyer, and The Good Wife and everything in between is the client who doesn’t exactly give all the facts to her attorney.

That’s fiction and it’s fun and without that plot mechanism a great many movies and series just do not work. The totally honest, up front client is not the stuff that makes a good legal thriller.

I , however, deal strictly in reality and here it is:

Facts are facts.  Some are good, some are bad.  I talk to a lot of people about the facts of their situation.  Most are straightforward.  They balance the good with the bad.

I can tell when someone is giving me the good facts good-wife-season-6-spoilers-will-lemond-bishop-kill-cary-episode-2-trust-issueswhile trying to ‘spin’ the bad.  They talk to me like they are making their best argument to a judge.  I get non-answers to straightforward questions.

When I notice this I explain that regardless of the case, the injustice or justice of it, the easily winnable or not-a-chance case and everything else, there are always good and bad facts.  Always.

I’ve been talking with a homeowner on and off since late March about a foreclosure situation.  Despite several phone conversations and email exchanges, the homeowner never mentioned the home was a condo and in addition to the mortgage company The-Lincoln-Lawyer-Grouponforeclosing, the condo association was also foreclosing.  That’s a very important fact.   I’m not sure why the homeowner did not reveal this to me. It isn’t the kind of bad fact that a homeowner doesn’t want to admit to (like falling behind on a mortgage because of a gambling problem).  By the time he told me this, it was almost too late.

I’m OK with bad facts.  There are always bad facts.  I can handle bad facts.  There was that time that I learned IN THE MIDDLE OF A DEPOSITION that my client had been arrested for cocaine possession.  That’s a bad fact.  But I have a great poker face, and I can handle it, I’d just really like to eliminate the surprise factor.

No client has all good facts.  Those clients don’t exist.  Don’t hesitate to recognize what might be your bad facts and trust your lawyer with them.   It’s how you and your lawyer handle your bad facts that will save you.

After all, neither of you want to end up in a legal thriller.

Thirty Years

antonio-de-pereda-thirty-years-war-HThirty years is a pretty long time. Few, if anything, lasts thirty years. Not even the Thirty Years War really lasted thirty years. Not continuously, at least.

images (2)It’s not all that easy to think back thirty years.  Ferris Bueller’s day off was thirty years ago last month. There are a great many diehard baseball fans that couldn’t tell you that the Kansas City Royals defeated the Cardinals in the 1985 World Series. Especially since the Royals promptly disappeared from view until last year.

In the last thirty years we’ve had five Presidents; been in Michael-Douglas-on-Telephonethree wars; through three ‘official’ recessions;  eight stock market crashes; countless bull and bear markets; seen cell phones go from the Gordon Gekko size of a small briefcase to smart phones; there have been technological advances that were only foreseen by science fiction.

Thirty Years.  That’s the average life span of a Fortune 500 company. Actually, absent Coca Cola and a few others, almost two-thirds of Fortune 500 list turns over every thirty years or so (Remember Compaq computers?)

The average marriage in the United States lasts roughly 14 years. Regardless, more than 60% of marriages end in 21 or so years by divorce or death of a spouse.  The average worker changes jobs about every five years.

Thirty years of perfect health – physical and mental -would be an outlier of epic proportions.

And yet thirty years is overwhelmingly the term for most mortgages in the U.S..

When I meet with a new client it’s important that they know what this means. That no one can control – maybe even influence all that much – events over a 30 year span. Certainly not their health, career, market forces, recessions, corporate mergers/bankruptcies/relocations/relevance;  marriage; children; aging/ailing parents; severe weather; and a hundred other things.

Thirty years is a long time to pay for a house, a lot can and will happen,  a lot of it is not within the homeowners’ control.

What is in their control, is how to handle the foreclosure. Hopefully, with my help.

 

Bullwinkle, the Internet, and Foreclosures

For my money Bullwinkle is one of the top five cartoons of all time. Bullwinkle_the_mooseSubversive is a pretty apt description of the show in those way-way-way back pre-cable days. One of Bullwinkle Moose’s favorite expressions: “If it’s in the newspaper, it must be true,”(though to do it justice you really have to hear him say it).

It was satirical then and it’s satirical now, when newspapers are online. “If it’s on the Internet, it must be true,” would be Bullwinkle’s new catchphrase. Most people would laugh, shake their heads and agree – even the ones who repost photos of Obama and the aliens from Roswell drinking beer on Facebook.

If it's in the ...
If it’s in the …

But that doesn’t stop anyone from finding and believing exactly what they wanted to find and believe . . . and sharing. This seems to particularly apply to legal matters. Let’s face it, there have been some insane court decisions over the past few hundred years of our common law, there’s bound to be one floating around out there for virtually any ‘no hope’ scenario.

There have been a few real outliers when it comes to foreclosures – homeowners who through a long series of tortuous litigation(is that redundant?) end up with a ‘free house’. In the time it took to get the free house there were probably thousands of modifications, negotiated short sales, all manner of not-so-horrible outcomes for other homeowners . . . yet the once-in-a-lifetime, all the planets perfectly aligned, outcome hits the Internet with all the subtlety of a Floyd Mayweather news conference.

This is the bane of my lawyerly existence. Unlike Bullwinkle’s newspapers, news of

‘A Resounding Victory for Homeowners’

doesn’t stay in the Business section – it spreads like wildfire and the more it spreads the more the magic of SEO kicks in and the higher it pops up in searches and the more . . .

Well, you know how it goes. It ends with homeowners under threat of foreclosure searching the net for help and having to scroll through dozens and dozens of ‘I got my home for free‘, ‘I got my client a house for free‘, ‘you can get your house for free‘, articles, blog posts, outright solicitations, before they get to the real world of foreclosure defense.

Not great for realistic expectations. It makes my job harder… though it can be even worse, as we’ll discuss in the next blog post.

The Wall . . . and Foreclosure

downloadMany of you know that I started training for a half-marathon back at the end of February. From not running much to a full-out running program to build endurance and distance for my first half-marathon, now a week away.

Training was going great, I ran a 15k a few weeks ago, finished it, felt good, went on training. I have several friends who, at various times over their lives, have trained long and hard for serious athletic goals. Each of them asked – only a dozen or so times – how I felt after I hit ‘the wall’.

‘The Wall.’ I had no idea. I’d tell them I had plenty of aches and pains, wanted to stop

The Wall at Westeros
The Wall at Westeros

at times, certainly got tired, worn down . . . but the wall? I asked for explanations, none were forthcoming – outside of “Well, you’ll know it when you hit it . . . “

Well, I finally hit it. Hard. Last Sunday. The Wall. I don’t think I’ve ever felt anything like hqdefault (1)that ever. It wasn’t fear. It wasn’t fatigue. It wasn’t self-doubt. It was really weird– anger, frustration and self pity. Those were the bricks in my wall. Continue reading The Wall . . . and Foreclosure

Bill Buckner and Foreclosures

c_buckner_i

 

Last week the New York Times ran and article called The Psychology of Choking Under Pressure.   Now, I’m not a big proponent of the term ‘choking’ but I get why they used it in this article. It’s really about how people sense the ‘stakes’ they are working/playing for. 

The study the Times quotes reveals some pretty counter-intuitive findings:

It may be that those of us who don’t like losses also have an exaggerated fear of failure, so we regard that opportunity to win $100 not as a chance for gain but as an outsize opportunity to fail. Conversely, people more comfortable with loss might harbor a surprising intolerance for losing what they already have.

 

Continue reading Bill Buckner and Foreclosures

Expectations, Part 2 (or so)

200px-Bleakhouse_serial_coverI  had a professor in law school who proclaimed loud and clear at least once a week that ‘your goal as lawyers should be to never be in a casebook,’ he would usually say it while brandishing said casebook.

He wasn’t referring to world shattering decisions like Brown v. Board of Education, he meant the contract cases that could have been settled amicably, tort cases where even a modicum of common sense would have kept them in the lower courts, property cases that mindlessly escalated . . .

Continue reading Expectations, Part 2 (or so)

Last Week in Foreclosure Defense . . . or Read Your Mail.

Regardless of the relationship, regardless of the status of the relationship – love, hate, divorce, reconciliation, estrangement, cold shoulder, head-over-heels infatuation, Robert Durst I’m-going-to-end-this-badly enmity – if you share money; buy a car, house, condo with someone; cosign a loan . . . do whatever’s necessary to stay in the paperwork loop.

My client didn’t, he allowed his wife to handle all the money, bills, payments, etc. – which is why his foreclosure got to the Law Day before he knew his home was in foreclosure.

Monday’s arguements probably went as well as I could have hoped for:

Old Debts (or not) and Enormous Profit …

Last Monday a friend of mine received a phone call on his cell phone from an unidentified Rhode Island number. He went to college in Providence, has friends there, answered.

rattman_paper
Script from a ‘collection’ company a few dozen times removed from the debt.

This is what he got – “Hi, Mr. Loman, this is an attempt to collect a debt, anything – yada, yada, yada … can you confirm the last four digits of your social?”

“No.”

“Is it ‘5555’?”

“Perhaps.”

“Okay, well, I have an account here from Verizon, you owe twelve hundred dollars.”

“I’ve never had a Verizon account.”

“Well, sure, but it could also be from -”

“Could be?”

“From any one of the following companies now part of Verizon …” the guy then read off a very long list of companies, a list that pretty much summed up the telephone industry of the 21st Century.

“No,” my friend answered.

“No? Whattaya mean, no?”

“I don’t owe anything to anyone on that list.”

“Says here you do.”

“Then it’s wrong.”

“Look, Biff, I have it right here and -”

My friend has a law degree and a long history of dealing with total BS, so it finally hit him to ask, “Wait a second, what’s the date on this supposed debt?”

The guy on the phone fumbled around, Biff could hear papers being shuffled, murmurs of other voices from the boiler room, then, “Yeah, got it here, 2003.”

“You’re calling me about a twelve year old debt?”

“Well, no, see, we just received it -”

“Yeah, well, then it sucks to be you, have a nice day, don’t ever call again.”

Continue reading Old Debts (or not) and Enormous Profit …

Contracts, French Meals, Debt, and Groucho Marx

“I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members.” ~ Groucho Marx

Groucho-MarxIf you’re looking for a car, or a student loan, or a credit card, or short term loan and there are investors out there dying for you to take on the debt, you have to wonder why . . . and consider deeply before joining the club.

Look at it this way: You’re walking down the street, hungry, deciding between Five Guys, In and Out Burger, and a couple of decent Chinese food take-out store fronts when the owner of a new French restaurant runs up to you, offers to set you and your friends up with a world famous 7 course meal.

You’re tempted – you’re salivating, in fact – but explain you simply can’t afford it. No sweat, he tells you, 7 courses, a couple bottles of fine wine, all the baggettes you can eat, and a dessert to die for AND you have 90 days to pay the meal off. Continue reading Contracts, French Meals, Debt, and Groucho Marx