With the economy still floundering, foreclosure lawyers remain in demand. In fact, according to Time Magazine, eighty six percent of foreclosure defendants go unrepresented. Yet as far as I can tell, few solo and small firm lawyers are fully exploring this promising practice area.
Below the jump, I discuss some of the barriers to entry in a foreclosure practice. But more importantly, I’ll highlight some of the neat programs that bar associations and legal aid groups are offering – from paid fellowships to training on how to start a for-fee foreclosure practice – that can help new solo and small firm lawyers gain entree into this important practice area.
So why aren’t more solo and small firms doing foreclosure work? My colleague Susan Cartier Liebel offers part of the answer at Build a Solo Practice. She argues that many prospective solo and small firm lawyers aren’t staying abreast of economic trends that will impact their practices and thus, don’t fully consider practice areas like bankruptcy or foreclosures which thrive during hard times.
At the same time, many solo and small firm lawyers are deterred from foreclosure work for several additional reasons. For starters, many believe, somewhat accurately, that foreclosure law is a complex area that requires extensive training. In addition, many solos fear that they’ll be forced to compete with lawyers willing to handle a foreclosure matter for $125 a case or that they won’t be able to collect money up front for foreclosure related work. (That’s potentially the case in California, though the bar is still due to rule on whether lawyers can accept payments up front and hold the money in their trust accounts).
The good news is that pro bono organizations, law schools and bar associations are taking steps to recruit private lawyers to represent foreclosure clients by providing training and grants. This week’s issue of Time Magazine discusses a program by the University of Miami School of Law, which offers several $10,000 "foreclosure defense fellowships" to recent grads to enable them to help local residents obtain foreclosure relief.
Time also notes that many bar associations are holding foreclosure defense clinics for local lawyers. In my home state of Maryland, Pro Bono Maryland has been offering these clinics for a year, but now, they’re actually gearing those clinics towards helping new lawyers develop a foreclosure based law practice with paying clients. The next training session includes this segment:
“Finding Clients in a Tough Economy – Doing Well While Doing Good”
Instructor – Phillip Robinson
Attorneys participating on the “Of Counsel” panels will have access to a pipeline of hundreds of real estate transactions involving potential fee-generating cases (i.e. Maryland Finder’s Fee, Consumer Protection and Mortgage Fraud statutes, RESPA, etc.) as you review counselor’s client files as part of your limited “Of Counsel” advice to the counselor trying to find sustainable solutions for their clients. If your practice includes work on behalf of homeowners with predatory mortgages and abusive loan servicing practices, or you are interested in expanding your practice to these consumer areas, this training will help you issue spot and litigate these cases from the loan documents themselves…in other words, know in five minutes if the client looks like a good Finder’s Fee case, Consumer Protection Act, Maryland Mortgage Fraud Act, or other claim worth investigating into a damage award to your client and fee paying case for you.
The next training is FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 6 – Prince George’s County, 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., at the office of Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, P.A, 6404 Ivy Lane, Suite 400
Greenbelt, MD 20770. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.
I’ve handled two cases on a pro bono basis through Maryland’s foreclosure prevention programs and I can’t say enough about the support that the program provides to volunteers. And besides, what better way to get your law firm off the ground than by doing well by doing good?