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Representing the Pro Bono Client: Consumer Law Basics 2018

Speaker(s): Joshua R.I. Cohen, Kathleen P. Hyland, Linda Jun, Phillip Robinson, Robert S. Sola, Robert W. Murphy, Ronald L. Burdge, Stacy M. Bardo
Recorded on: Jun. 8, 2018
PLI Program #: 221652

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.

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.

Linda Jun is Senior Policy Counsel at Americans for Financial Reform, a national coalition working to lay the foundation for a strong, stable, and ethical financial system. Her focus is foreclosure and consumer issues. Until April 2018, she was a Senior Staff Attorney in the Foreclosure Prevention Project at Mobilization for Justice (formerly MFY Legal Services) in New York City, where she represented homeowners in all stages of foreclosure proceedings in state and federal court, including administrative complaints, pleadings, settlement conference negotiations, motion practice, discovery, and affirmative litigation. She has presented at several trainings on a wide range of foreclosure related issues to court personnel, attorneys, and housing counselors. In 2016, she was one of four primary authors of the New Yorkers for Responsible Lending Coalition’s report, “Divergent Paths: The Need for More Uniform Standards and Practices in New York State’s Residential Foreclosure Conference Process.” Before her work at Mobilization for Justice, Ms. Jun spent two years starting a new court-based foreclosure mediation program in the Third Judicial Circuit in Illinois, creating the program’s infrastructure and drafting the local court rule to begin the program. Ms. Jun graduated cum laude from the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis and received her B.A. from Northwestern University.

Phillip Robinson is a solo litigator from Silver Spring, Maryland.  He is an active member of the National Association of Consumer Advocates (“NACA”) for more than 15 years and recognized consumer litigator in the areas of mortgage servicing, foreclosure defense, and debt collection practices. Currently in private practice at the Consumer Law Center LLC, Phillip's statewide practice concentrates in the areas of aiding homeowners with sustainable solutions who have fallen victim to unfair, deceptive or otherwise illegal consumer practices by mortgage services, lenders, and debt buyers.

Phillip served as co-trial counsel in the recent $38,630,344.00 jury verdict against LVNV on behalf of a class of 1,589 Maryland consumers.  Previously, Phillip served as Executive Director for the award winning Civil Justice Inc. Phillip is recognized for his innovative, creative approach to case management and systemic creditor practices. Building on the work of NACA members who uncovered the mortgage robo-signing practices, Phillip pressed the certification of classes of defendants facing foreclosure and asking Maryland courts to dismiss hundreds of pending foreclosure cases. Also while at Civil Justice, Phillip served as a lead training for Maryland's Foreclosure Prevention Pro Bono Project where he trained over 2,000 Maryland attorneys volunteering to aid homeowners.

Phillip has been appointed to numerous boards and advisory committees and in 2008 was recognized as the Maryland Consumer Advocate of the Year by the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition.  In 2016 he was also recognized as NACA’s Consumer Advocate of the Year.

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.

Robert W. Murphy is in private practice in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, focusing on consumer class action litigation. He presently serves as an adjunct professor of law at the University of Florida College of Law in Gainesville, Florida. He is a past chair of the Consumer Protection Law Committee of The Florida Bar and a former Board Member, Secretary and Florida State Chairperson for the National Association of Consumer Advocates.  He has spoken at many seminars and conferences hosted by a variety of state and national organizations, including The Florida Bar, The Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers, the National Consumer Law Center, the National Association of Legal Aid and Public Defenders, and the United States Military Judge Advocate Corps as well as college and law schools.  In October, 2007 and April, 2011, the Federal Trade Commission designated Mr. Murphy to be panel member for the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Symposium in Washington, DC, which addressed the rising abuses in the consumer debt collection industry.

Mr. Murphy has been lead counsel in a wide variety of state-wide, regional and national consumer class actions throughout the United States.  In 2003, Mr. Murphy obtained the first contested certified class under the Florida Retail Installment Sales Act as reported in Brown v. SCI Funeral Services of Florida, 212 F.R.D.602 (S.D. Fla. 2003), which was described in the South Florida Business Review as one of the most significant cases in South Florida in 2003. More recently, Mr. Murphy was lead counsel in a 2009 nationwide class action which provided over $50 million in relief to over 8,000 consumers whose vehicles had been wrongfully repossessed.  To date, Attorney Murphy has obtained class benefits estimated to be in excess of $500 million with significant cy pres awards to consumer and legal aid organizations.

Mr. Murphy attended the U.S. Military Academy, and received his B.A. cum laude from Wake Forest University in 1984 and his J.D. from the University of Florida College of Law in 1987.  He is admitted to practice in Florida and Georgia; the United States District Courts for the Middle District of Florida, Southern District of Florida, Northern District of Florida, Western District of Oklahoma, Northern District of Ohio, Middle District of Georgia, Northern District of Georgia; Western District of Michigan; Western District of Tennessee; United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit and has been admitted pro hac vice in numerous other state and federal courts.

A regular contributor to local and national news media on consumer law topics, Mr. Murphy most recently appeared on ABC News Nightline on January 19, 2007 on the topic of consumer debt collection. He has authored and contributed to many articles and papers on consumer litigation issues, including a recent treatise published by the National Consumer Law Center on debt collection.

Mr. Murphy maintains his South Florida office at 1212 SE 2nd Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Telephone (954)763-8660, E-mail:

Ronald L. Burdge is the founder of Burdge Law Office in Dayton, Ohio. With 38 years of AutoFraud experience, 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.

Stacy Bardo is the founder of Bardo Law, P.C., a consumer protection litigation firm in Chicago, Illinois.  Stacy has more than 17 years of experience prosecuting consumer cases on the plaintiff’s side.  She has been principally involved in hundreds of actions involving debt collection, identity theft, and credit reporting practices, consumer fraud and deceptive sales, warranty breaches, automobile financing, repossession, and odometer fraud complaints, mortgage servicing breaches, and specifically, violations of the federal Truth in Lending, Telephone Consumer Protection, Fair Debt Collection Practices, Electronic Funds Transfer, Fair Labor Standards, Fair Credit Reporting, and Real Estate Settlement Procedures Acts.

She has been appointed class counsel in multiple national and statewide class actions certified in Illinois, New York, California, Michigan, Minnesota, and Washington and is licensed to practice in the State of Illinois, the U.S. District Courts for the Northern District of Illinois, the Eastern District of Wisconsin, the Northern District of Indiana, and the Western District of Michigan, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

An active supporter of both the National Consumer Law Center and the National Association of Consumer Advocates, Stacy was elected to NACA’s Board of Directors in 2012 and recently completed a two-year term as Co-Chair of the Board.  Stacy also serves as the Legislative Liaison for the Chicago Bar Association’s Consumer Law Committee and is a past Vice-Chair.  She is also a longtime board member of CARPLS, a Chicago-area legal services organization which provides free hotline and courtroom help services to thousands of families every year.  

Stacy is a frequent guest lecturer, serving on panels hosted by, among others, the Chicago Bar Association, the National Consumer Law Center, the National Association of Consumer Advocates, the Illinois Creditors’ Bar Association, and the Lawyers’ Trust Fund of Illinois.

A Chicago native, Stacy is a graduate of Northwestern University and Loyola University Chicago School of Law.