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Representing the Pro Bono Client: Consumer Law Basics 2017


Speaker(s): Cary L. Flitter, Ian B. Lyngklip, Joshua R.I. Cohen, Kathleen P. Hyland, Lisa Sitkin, Robert S. Sola, Ronald L. Burdge, Scott C. Borison
Recorded on: Jun. 9, 2017
PLI Program #: 180307

Like many students attending college, part of Josh’s financial aid package included work study – a program which funds a job for a student to help provide money for the student to live off of while attending college. Josh’s job landed him in the financial aid office of Brandeis University. There, he was exposed to financial aid in a way most college students are not. Never in his wildest dreams did he expect that experience to play such an important role in his career.

Many years later Josh found himself in law school at the Quinnipiac University School of Law. As his second year was rapidly coming to a close, Josh began researching summer positions. It was during a discussion with a few professors that Josh learned of consumer law – an area of law that was severely underrepresented with enormous growth potential, and best of all, an area that appealed to Josh’s sense of community activism and fighting for the little guy. During another discussion with a professor that ran the internship programs, he learned of Connecticut Legal Services (Legal Aid) and its unique consumer program – the Consumer Law Project for Elders (CLEP).

Josh immediately called the program director who asked, “You WANT to do consumer law?” Apparently Josh was the first law student requesting to work in the program. This is where Josh was first exposed to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and how it protected consumers from harassing and abusive debt collection conduct.

At CLEP, one project involved an elder gentleman and his student loans. It seemed he had gone to trucking school in the early ’80s but had never paid off his student loan. The man had received a letter threatening to offset his social security if he did not get his loan out of default. Suddenly Josh’s years of working in the Brandeis financial aid office came rushing back. Josh immediately knew what to do and assisted with the paperwork. By the end of the summer, the gentleman had avoided the offset, cured his default, and was making voluntary payments of a reduced amount that did not affect his budget. But still, Josh had no idea this was just the start.

As Josh began his third year of law school, the CLEP director invited Josh to a seminar being given by one of the Connecticut’s leading FDCPA attorneys. By the end of the seminar, Josh had lined up an interview with this lawyer and three weeks later started a part-time job as a law clerk at the lawyer’s firm, the Consumer Law Group.

In October of 2008, Josh went solo, founding the Law Office of Joshua R.I. Cohen. He very much enjoyed doing consumer law and wanted his firm to focus exclusively on consumer law. Specifically, the firm worked on debt collection defense, debt collector harassment and abusive conduct (FDCPA), credit report issues, and debt settlement. Josh also decided to focus on student loan law. Rather quickly, he realized that this was an especially underrepresented area of consumer law and there was a growing need for legal help.

Almost immediately, Josh found debt collection violations running rampant throughout the student loan collection industry. After consulting with his former boss, the two joined forces to bring a few cases with class action potential. In 2011, after being requested by fellow consumer advocates, Joshua started teaching the Student Loan Law Workshop. To date, over 200 attorneys have attended the Workshop.


Cary L. Flitter practices consumer law with Flitter Milz, P.C. located in suburban Philadelphia and New Jersey.  Cary serves on the adjunct faculty at Temple University Beasley School of Law in Philadelphia and Widener University School of Law in Wilmington, Delaware, where he teaches Consumer Law and Litigation including Fair Credit Reporting, Fair Debt Collection, the law of repossession, and class action.   He has guest lectured on consumer law issues at Harvard Law School, The University of Pennsylvania Law School, and other venues.

Flitter is a contributing author to Pennsylvania Consumer Law by Bisel Publishing Co.  This is the leading treatise in Pennsylvania on consumer law.  He is also a contributor to Consumer Class Actions 5th Ed. by the National Consumer Law Center.  Cary was invited by the Federal Trade Commission to participate in workshops on Collection of Consumer Debt.  Cary’s consumer cases in the Court of Appeals include Brown v. Card Service Center, 464 F.3d 450 (3d Cir. 2006) (seminal circuit case on deception under FDCPA); Rosenau v. Unifund, 539 F.3d 218 (3d Cir. 2008) (successful challenge to phony “legal department” in dunning letter); Gager v. Dell Fin. Serv., LLC, 727 F.3d 265 (3d Cir. 2013) (holding, in first impression, that consent to receive cellphone calls is revocable under Telephone Consumer Protection Act) and Douglass v. Convergent Outsourcing, 765 F.3d 299 (3d Cir. 2014) (holding, in first impression, that placing the consumer’s account number on collection envelope violates privacy provisions of FDCPA).

Cary is the recipient of several pro bono awards for his work on behalf of low-income consumers from the Pennsylvania and Montgomery Bar Associations, and of the 2014 Consumer Lawyer of the Year Award from the National Association of Consumer Advocates. Cary serves as the 2016 Co-Chair of the Federal Courts Committee of the Montgomery Bar Association.


Ian B. Lyngklip is a partner at Lyngklip & Associates Consumer Law Center PLC. Mr. Lyngklip is a former member and Chairperson of the State Bar of Michigan Consumer Law Section Counsel, and a past Co-Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Consumer Advocates.  He regularly provides training in consumer law around the country, which have included participation in programs for other consumer advocates, legal aid groups, industry, regulatory bodies, judges, and legislators.  He is the recipient of many honors including the Oakland County Bar Association Pro Bono Service Award, June 2005, the Frank Kelly Award, Michigan State Bar Association Consumer Law Section, September 2004, and the Consumer Advocate of the Year, National Association of Consumer Advocates, October 2003.  He is regularly quoted in articles concern credit reporting and debt collection abuse, and has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Kiplingers, the Scripps Howard News Wire, and the Detroit Free Press.   His firm maintains its web site at www.MichiganConsumerLaw.com.  He graduated from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 1987 and the University of Detroit School of Law in 1992.

 


Kathleen P. Hyland represents consumers coping with auto fraud, mortgage fraud, debt collection issues, and student loan problems in individual cases and class actions. She has experience representing consumers against banks, debt collectors, student loan companies, loan servicers, mortgage companies, landlords, and many more.  Kat is licensed to practice law in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Kat graduated cum laude from Fordham University with a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy before earning her Master’s in Public Policy from The Johns Hopkins University, Institute for Policy Studies. Kat graduated cum laude from the University of Maryland School of Law, winning the Community Scholar Award for her work.

Kat has also worked as a budget policy analyst for the Maryland State Department of Budget and Management, where she evaluated and recommended funding for capital construction projects and grant and loan programs.  She has also worked as a legal fellow for the Baltimore City Law Department and has interned for the New York State Supreme Court, New York State AFL-CIO, Transport Workers Union, AFL-CIO Department for Professional Employees, Legal Momentum, and the Baltimore City Circuit Court.

Kat currently serves on the Board of Directors and is Vice President of the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition, and Board Member of Guidewell Financial Solutions, and is an adjunct professor of Law Practice Management at the University of Maryland, Francis King Carey School of Law.


Robert S. Sola is the founding member of Robert S. Sola, P.C., a consumer law firm based in Portland, Oregon.  He has been handling Fair Credit Reporting Act cases since 1996.  He represents consumers across the country, and has litigated FCRA cases in 24 states as co-counsel with other consumer attorneys.

Mr. Sola has obtained large jury verdicts against all three major credit reporting agencies.  In 2002, he was lead counsel in Thomas v. Trans Union, where the jury awarded the consumer $5.3 million.  In 2007, he was co-counsel in Williams v. Equifax, which resulted in a judgment of $3.4 million.  Mr. Sola was named Trial Lawyer of the Year in 2003 by the National Association of Consumer Advocates.

He is a regular speaker on credit reporting litigation for the National Consumer Law Center, the National Association of Consumer Advocates, various state bar organizations and private groups.


Lisa Sitkin is a Senior Staff Attorney at National Housing Law Project (NHLP) in San Francisco, CA, where she provides technical assistance, training and practice resources to attorneys representing homeowners in connection with mortgages and foreclosure. She has been practicing law since 1997. Prior to joining NHLP, Ms. Sitkin was a Managing Attorney at Housing and Economic Rights Advocates in Oakland, CA. Ms. Sitkin has counseled and represented individual clients, participated in policy advocacy regarding mortgage servicing and foreclosure, and assisted with mortgage servicing, predatory and unfair lending litigation. She has conducted numerous workshops and trainings regarding mortgages, foreclosures, loan modification and foreclosure rescue scams, including programs produced by the Practicing Law Institute and the National Consumer Law Center, and has testified before the California State Legislature and other governmental bodies regarding mortgage servicing and foreclosure issues. She is one of the original drafters of the bill that ultimately became the California Homeowner Bill of Rights.


Ronald L. Burdge is the founder of Burdge Law Office in Dayton, Ohio. With 40 years of AutoFraud experience and 20 years of attorney fee research and expert witness work, he has authored numerous articles in national, state, and local publications, and lectured widely on AutoFraud and Consumer Law topics, Attorney Fee issues and trial practice and strategy topics. He has extensive trial and appellate experience in individual and class action cases involving car dealers, manufacturers, lenders and their business practices and is one of the few Consumer Law Trial Attorneys who has class action jury trial experience. Repeatedly named an Ohio SuperLawyer in Consumer Law since 2005, he was named Trial Lawyer of the Year by the National Association of Consumer Advocates in 2004 and has been an examiner for the National Board of Trial Advocacy. Since 1999, he has conducted Consumer Law Attorney Fee Surveys resulting in biannual published Reports that have been cited with approval in over 120 federal and state court attorney fee decisions across the United States and numerous Secondary Research Sources. Mr. Burdge is a member of the National Association of Consumer Advocates and has testified in as an expert witness on Consumer Law and Attorney Fee issues in numerous state and federal courts and before the Ohio Legislature.


Scott C. Borison devotes his time, energy, passion and 30+ years of experience as a lawyer to representing consumers to see they receive the protections they are entitled to under the law and help them enforce the rights they have against debt buyers, debt collectors, lenders, banks and mortgage companies. He recently started a network of attorneys across the country who share the same passion to help consumers: lawzebra.com. 

He has represented thousands of consumers across the country in trials and appeals. His trial experience includes class actions and individual cases before state and federal courts. He is a graduate of the Trial Lawyers college He is licensed in California, District of Columbia and Maryland. He is also admitted before the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 7th, 9th and 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and various federal district courts across the country.