How To Avoid Fake Law Firms, Unlicensed Lawyers And High Fees
The United States is the most litigious country on Earth! Americans file on average file a new lawsuit every 2.5 seconds. Litigation in the US is serious business and this shows in the amount of lawsuits and lawyers we have in the country. Each 60 seconds courts around the United States register an average of 30 new lawsuits. This is 1800 lawsuits an hour. 42,000 lawsuits a day. Do we have enough lawyers to file all those lawsuits? Yes we do! There are on average 3 lawyers for each doctor in the United States. Chances are you had a relative who was sued/involved in a lawsuit or you were the subject of a lawsuit yourself. Law is one of the largest thriving industries in our society and once we inevitably get involved with a lawyer, therefore we must be cautious to avoid getting scammed or double-crossed by an attorney.
How To Identify Fake Lawyers
Take a look at a random listing for lawyers in your area. You will notice hundreds of listings and many of them specialize in areas such as: personal injury, medical malpractice, criminal law, tax law, business law, corporate law and every niche under the sun. There are “expert” lawyers for every area of expertise. Some lawyers operate as independent representatives and large law groups hire lawyers who can cater to all needs by providing lawyers based on client demand. If a client wants a lawyer to sue an insurance company, a large firm will assign an expert insurance lawyer. Upon demand, the same law firm could provide the client with corporate lawyer if they wish to sue a business competitor. How does one verify if the law firm they’re hiring is legitimate and is not going to double-cross them for higher attorney fees? There are many “red flags” and signs which we’ll cover below. To be safe, you should generally rely on common sense: ask a relative/friend who had previous experience for a recommendation, check other clients, and demand detailed paperwork for each payment.
We only look for lawyers when we’re distressed, had bad fortune or experienced a crisis in life. Almost no one looks for a lawyer when they’re happy. This is why it’s harder to do the due-diligence and research as we’re burdened by a heavy emotional state. If you only skim through the website of a lawyer, you’re more prone to getting tricked than a person who does due-diligence research. In the current year there are even fake law firms with fake representatives who trick clients online by demanding advance payments and disappearing after pre-payments are made. To stay safe from fake law firms, unlicensed lawyers and/or shady lawyers, stay alert for the scams below.
SCAM #1: Fake/Bogus Law Firms
Multiple instances of bogus law firms have appeared on the internet, and many of them show real images of law firms with lawyers and staff (mostly copied from other legitimate law firms and masked for dishonorable purposes). Unfortunately scammers copy identical credible law firms and create websites that have a professional flair, to an extent that it’s impossible to tell the difference between a real and bogus website. In many cases they might even leave the real contact information of the original firm, and the victim is reassured by their customer service and then double-crossed once the bogus website reps ask for a premature payment. They take real names, pictures and contact details from real law firms and re-create the website which they control to make victims send them money.
The big target for fake law firms are cases that involved direct money issues, where they can pretend they need advance payments in order to represent you in court. This extends to money-related cases such as wealth inheritance, business investments, accident compensations, rare metals/jewelry theft and more. If the “law firm” demands an advance payment from you before meeting you in person and taking a detailed look at your case, you are dealing with scammers even if their front website seems legitimate. Bogus law firms make huge profits on advance payments from gullible customers who are desperate and want a fast solution to their problems. Once they’ve “hooked” a victim and bypassed their initial concerns, they make them send a pre-payment. Payments excuses include “advance paperwork fees”, “legal court fees” and “lawyer fees”. These can amount to thousands of dollars which the victim will never see back.
Red flags of bogus law firms
- Advance payments – The bogus company requests a payment in advance in order to “set up” your case. They require payments for paperwork processing, court fees, lawyer fees, or any third reason they make up. In most cases you won’t be able to ask for clarification and they label it “standard procedure”. If there is a rush for payment, you are always going to be scammed.
- Emergency procedures – If the lawyers are convincing you that your case is an “emergency” and that you must act now to submit your papers and make payments, stay clear. They employ emotional tricks to make you feel that your case won’t be settled unless you act fast (hand them your money) and more dedicated scammers can call your loved ones and get them involved too.
- Digital money requests – A real law firm collects payments in person at their office via bank transfer or credit card. Most bogus law firms are afraid to meet clients in person because they would incriminate themselves, hence they demand payments over email, mobile, or their website directly. No professional law firm ever demands payments over the internet, they only send invoices which you pay on location.
- No credibility – You must always recognize the person you’re talking to. Once you’re at a law firm and you met your lawyers, those lawyers will follow-up with you (if there’s a team) or your lawyer will call you directly. The only exception is if the secretary of the lawyer contacts you. If you’re contacted by a person you don’t recognize in regards to your “case” they could be out to swindle you.
Tete-à-tete meetings are the fastest way to filter bogus law firms. Bogus firms don’t purchase office premises to scam clients and virtually all operate 100% over the internet. Visit the premises of the law firm, ask for a tour of the office and meet the lawyers. Once you’ve had a detailed discussion with your lawyer, shook their hands and had a conversation, you can establish closer contact and inquire as to how to pay your fees on location. They will explain how the legal fees processing is handled in great detail. If you deal with scammers they will refuse to meet you in person and will always demand payments over the internet. Meet your lawyers face to face, make eye contact, ask personal questions and you’ll instinctively know if you can trust them. The larger the law firm, the more trustworthy they generally are.
SCAM #2: Unlicensed Lawyers
To become licensed to practice law, each lawyer has to pass a “bar exam”. The “bar exam” is the highest exam that lawyers pass after they finish law school which enables them to practice law in their jurisdiction. A lawyer might not be eligible to practice law in your State or they in effect circumvent the law. In essence you must ensure that your lawyer has a “license” to practice law in your area. Large reputable law firms only hire experienced lawyers with decades of litigation under their belt. If you hire a large law firm you have little to worry about because your lawyer is certainly licensed to practice law. However, if you hire your “next door” lawyer you might be putting yourself in harm’s way. Their lack of qualification in itself is not a problem, the bigger problem is the damage they can inflict on your case. If you deal with unlicensed lawyers who weren’t able to pass the bar, what guarantees they’re going to represent you in court?
Inquire as to their experience with previous cases similar to yours. If the lawyer had experience they will gladly share their stories. If they refuse to show your their qualifications or you’re not satisfied with the answer, drop them and seek out another lawyer. Never settle for a bad lawyer only because their fees are lower. Higher fees mean better representation which ultimately begets higher settlements.
SCAM #3: Early/Late Settlements (For Licensed Lawyers)
Despite how many lawyers can come from big law firms and have qualifications, many employ immoral tactics that take advantage of clients (especially of lower economic standing). It’s not unheard of that reputable lawyers ask clients to lie under oath, or extend/shorten their claims based on which would incur higher fees on the client end which they end up collecting.
Red flags of legitimate lawyers
- Requesting to lie in court – If your lawyer tries to convince you to lie to “win” a higher settlement for your claim, they in return believe they would make more money for themselves and this is a huge red flag because it’s illegal to lie in court. Refuse to lie and replace your lawyer in this case. If the lawyer is being vague or using extensive law jargon that confuses you, ask them to simplify their terminology in order to get in tune with what they’re saying. Lawyers sometimes do this to confuse clients and make them seem that they are much more “knowledgeable” in regards to the case. Legal procedures are simple and can be explained using simple terms. Refuse to sign a paper if you don’t know what it entails because some lawyers might incriminate you without your knowledge.
- Expedited settlements – If the lawyer rushes you to reach a settlement and claims it’s an emergency, be extra cautious as they might be trying to collect higher fees by settling you early. This depends on the case. Consult an alternative lawyer unrelated to your main lawyer for a second opinion and see if both their opinions match up.
- Prolonging the case – In many cases lawyers extend a case on purpose, to give a client false hope. This is especially the case with criminal procedures where the lawyer promises a favorable court decision, but they’re only out to obtain further profits for themselves.
Lawyers should use simple terminology to explain your case and never sign any documents that could incriminate you without being fully aware of what you’re putting your signature on. Always be cautious of early or delayed settlements and ask yourself if your case is realistically winnable.