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Financial Dermatologists

posted by Adam Levitin

The Yellow Pages that arrived at my door yesterday. This strange book is an object of great fascination to a generation that has grown up watching YouTube and relying on Wikipedia instead of World Book and Brittanica.  It was pure Kismet, but when I opened the volume, it was to Lawyers-Bankruptcy.  It turned out to be an enlightening experience. The Yellow Pages is perhaps the only place one can find concentrated advertising by bankruptcy (and other) lawyers. There might even be a good article in analyzing the advertisements. 

I was surprised that a good third of them didn't have the requisite "we are a debt relief agency" language, while some of the others choose to repurpose the BAPCPA escutcheon by calling themselves things like "federally recognized debt relief agencies".  Is that so different than the mortgage modification shops recently warned by the CFPB and FTC regarding misleading advertising for potential misrepresentations about government affiliation?

By far the best ad, however, was patterned on the Dr. Jonathan Zizmor, dermatologist, ad of NYC Subway fame, listing the various types of treatments available for consumers:  instead of wart and mole removals, there are second mortgage and lien removals.  Instead of chemical fruit peel treatments to reduce blemishes, consumers can get reductions in mortgage balances and taxes. Stop living with those embarassing acne garnishments and get on with your life. 

I always thought of bankruptcy lawyers as the legal equivalent of ER docs:  stop the hemorraging, stabilize the patient, move them to the ICU, and then on to the next one. But maybe we're really financial dermatologists. 

Comments

Consumer bankruptcy law is one of those areas where the yellow pages still work. If you search for attorney names in PACER you get a list of all the cases in which they've appeared. Copy and paste it into a spreadsheet, open it in excel, sort out the adversary proceedings,and then you have a good idea of how many cases they file per year.

In the Seattle-Tacoma area there is a direct correlation between presence in the Yellow Pages and filing rate, there is also a direct correlation between ad size and filing rate. In my own practice, the call volume went up enormously after I went into the Yellow Pages. Also, the Yellow Pages are much less expensive than they used to be and are certainly less expensive than other mass marketing vehicles like Total Attorneys or pay per click.

Also, I compare myself to an oncologist. You don't want to be in my office, but if you're in my office, you really need me.

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  • As a public service, the University of Illinois College of Law operates Bankr-L, an e-mail list on which bankruptcy professionals can exchange information. Bankr-L is administered by one of the Credit Slips bloggers, Professor Robert M. Lawless of the University of Illinois. Although Bankr-L is a free service, membership is limited only to persons with a professional connection to the bankruptcy field (e.g., lawyer, accountant, academic, judge). To request a subscription on Bankr-L, click here to visit the page for the list and then click on the link for "Subscribe." After completing the information there, please also send an e-mail to Professor Lawless (rlawless@illinois.edu) with a short description of your professional connection to bankruptcy. A link to a URL with a professional bio or other identifying information would be great.

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