I focus on individual chapter 7 and chapter 13 bankruptcy cases, as well as other consumer protection matters such as car problems (lemon law), unfair lending, foreclosure prevention, debt collection harassment. I have clients throughout Bristol County as well as some in Plymouth County, Cape and Islands, and further afield.
While I enjoy representing clients of diverse backgrounds and circumstances, I focus on helping people of modest means. I am familiar with the eligibility conditions of public assistance and social insurance programs as these related to debt management and consumer law issues.
I want my clients to understand the larger context in which their legal problems arise. I encourage them to exercise active citizenship to make the law more responsive to the needs of the 99%. For example, the Massachusetts legislature recently enacted a long-overdue reform of the laws that keep creditors from seizing debtors' cars and other personal property. I got several clients involved in this campaign, having them tell their representatives their stories about how the outmoded exemption law affected them. Voter registration forms are always available in my office, and I connect clients to grassroots organizations such as the Coalition for Social Justice, through which ordinary citizens unite their efforts to change public policy.
I filed an emergency bankruptcy for a single mother whose wages were being attacked because of old tax debts. She should never have been found indebted to the IRS in the first place; her tax preparer had failed to help her when her Earned Income Credits were retroactively challenged, inappropriately, by the government. In addition to discharging the debt, I sued the tax preparation service and obtained a modest settlement.
I filed a bankruptcy for a client who owed much more on her used car than it was worth. We timed this case so that when she received her income tax refund, she was able to use it to "redeem" the car. Then she was free from the rest of the payments, achieving a real fresh start, which is always the goal of bankruptcy.
56 North Main Street
Fall River MA 02720
I do not charge for a consultation where it is expected to lead to ongoing representation in a bankruptcy or other matter. Sometimes clients are just looking for advice -- about their options in handling debt, about unfair business practices, or to represent themselves in court. I expect clients to understand that they are receiving a valuable service and that this is part of how I make my living. Consultation fees are usually in the range of $100 to $150.
I handle bankruptcies on a fixed-price or mostly fixed-price basis. A typical Chapter 7 fee would be from $800 to $1,500, depending on the client's income and the case's complexity. (This number does not include the filing fee of $306 and miscellaneous third-party fees of up to $100.) Chapter 13 cases are more expensive, but less money up front is necessary because it is customary for the lawyer to be paid over time through the plan.
$150 to $225 depending on ability to pay and nature of the case.
Monday through Friday
9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Evening and Sunday appointments available.
Yes, in suitable cases.
I frequently use court-annexed mediation in landlord-tenant cases. I have not had occasion to do so in consumer law cases, but am open to it. I have not been involved in arbitration, but assume that I will eventually, because consumers are often forced into arbitration by the fine print in their contracts. Arbitration is generally less advantageous than trial in a real court, and is not a forum that a consumer would usually choose.
I provide some pro bono legal service by referral of cases from legal services programs. I also conduct monthly clinics on debtors' rights and bankruptcy, on a pro bono basis, under the auspices of the local legal services program.
I welcome cases of small dollar value. It is important, both to the clients involved and to the economic system, for lower-income people to have access to legal resources to fight shady used car dealers, slumlords, and other bad actors.
I encourage everyone to learn about legal issues affecting them. Recognizing the acute lack of public education about laws that protect consumers in the marketplace, I took the lead in developing a debtors' rights/consumer law curriculum to be used in the Massachusetts National Lawyers Guild (NLGs) Street Law Clinic and in other settings. I conduct monthly pro bono clinics on debtors' rights and the bankruptcy process for my local legal services program. I also conduct consumer education through my blog, "Know Your Rights, Credit-Wise," which lives at http://www.roherlaw.net.
We live in the aftermath of deregulation. There are few legal restrictions on what lenders can charge. The laws that do exist are mostly disclosure laws. For this reason, it's crucial to understand the documents you are asked to sign -- to know what's there to protect you and what's there to harm you. Better financial education of a precautionary nature would have averted some of the horrible situations we have seen recently -- predatory mortgage loans, foreclosure rescue and debt elimination scams, and so forth.
I am happy to review documents prepared by clients. With respect to bankruptcy in particular, though, preparing financial documents is the essence of the attorney's role. In order to approve of or offer constructive criticism of documents that a potential client intends to file, I would need to delve into all the underlying facts and calculations just as if I were preparing the documents myself.
In appropriate cases I give advice to enable clients to represent themselves. (In such cases, I expect clients to understand that the giving of advice is a valuable legal service and is part of how I make my living.) Once a case is in court, clients often underestimate the difficulty or fail to anticipate the pitfalls of representing themselves. Researching a subject area on the web is not an adequate substitute for a legal education and years of experience in the field. Unfortunately, I get a lot of calls from clients who have filed cases themselves and then realized they were in over their heads. Oftentimes this costs more in time and money than if they had consulted me at the beginning.
Clients may also have exaggerated fears of the cost of hiring a lawyer. Many laws regulating companies' dealings with consumers have provisions that require the company to pay the attorney's fees of a successful consumer plaintiff. So if you have a strong case of, for example, debt collection harassment or wrongful credit reporting, I should be able to represent you without a large retainer.
I was a staff attorney for legal services programs for almost 20 years, first in a small office in Kentucky with a varied practice, then here in southeastern Massachusetts, emphasizing housing and public benefits issues.
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