There are so many lawyers out there. There used to be a time when going to law school, graduating, and passing the bar exam was something rare and special. It just isn’t that way anymore. There are 206 ABA-accredited law schools in the country, each churning out 250-plus would-be lawyers every year. Back in the day, each town had a lawyer who handled pretty much every kind of matter for all of the people in the town. Now, in most suburban areas, if you keep your eyes open, you’ll find a lawyer on pretty much every corner. They practice all kinds of things for all kinds of people. For every problem that a person can have, there’s a lawyer who can handle that problem.
The thing is, there are a lot of lawyers out there who just aren’t very good. They take whatever cases “walk in the door” and hope that they know more about a particular kind of case than their potential client does. After all, if you can convince someone that you know more than they do, then you’re an expert in that other person’s eyes. Since there are so many lawyers out there, everyone knows a lawyer, and if you don’t know a lawyer, you know someone who knows a lawyer.
So, when you have a problem that you need a lawyer for, the natural thing is to talk to the lawyer you know. You do that, or you ask the person who knows the lawyer to talk to that lawyer for you. Since there are so many lawyers out there, and some lawyers who just aren’t very good, and other lawyers who just take whatever case walks in the door, how do you know that the lawyer you know is the right lawyer for you? You don’t, and that’s scary.
If you have a medical issue, going to your primary care doctor is a good first step. Finding out what generally might be wrong is appropriate when you don’t know what’s going on. When you start to figure things out though, your primary care doctor just doesn’t have the capability to accurately diagnose or treat you. If you have a foot problem, you go to a podiatrist. If you’re having sinus issues, you see an ear, nose and throat doctor. If you’re worried about cancer, you go to an oncologist. There are specialties within those specialties, and if you’ve got a specialized problem, you want the best specialist that you can get.
It should be the same thing with hiring a lawyer. If you have been arrested, you don’t want to hire a patent lawyer. If you need to draft a will, you don’t go to a mergers and acquisitions lawyer. If you’re in foreclosure, you don’t want to hire a personal injury lawyer. I recently went up against a personal injury lawyer in a foreclosure case. Do you want to guess how that turned out?
I’m representing a bank on a relatively standard foreclosure action. I get an answer from the borrower's attorney, and it has 36 affirmative defenses. That’s a lot of affirmative defenses. I start to read the answer, and some of the affirmative defenses just don’t apply in foreclosure actions. Defenses like “the damages suffered by plaintiff were caused by risk assumed by the plaintiff.” That’s a personal injury defense. Another defense read that “there are other persons who are responsible for plaintiff’s injury.” Again, a personal injury defense. This attorney wasn’t completely horrible; he did throw in some defenses that apply in foreclosure cases, like the 90-day notice defense. But when he referred to a “new foreclosure law,” and that law has been in effect for 10 years already, it was another clue that this attorney didn’t do too much foreclosure work.
The borrower didn’t stand a chance. When I pointed out that several defenses in the complaint were personal injury defenses, the judge became infuriated that the defendant wasted all of our time (especially the judge’s) with these frivolous defenses and without even getting into the merits of my motion for summary judgment, granted my motion and struck the borrower’s answer.
When you’re in foreclosure, you don’t need a personal injury lawyer. You don’t need a lawyer who is going to throw 36 affirmative defenses in an answer just to show you that they’re doing a lot of work. You need a lawyer who will listen to your situation, let you know what your options are, let you choose the right option for your particular situation, and proceed accordingly. The lawyer on the corner just isn’t going to cut it when your family’s home is on the line.