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Representing the Pro Bono Client: Consumer Law Basics 2020

Speaker(s): Adrienne D. McEntee, Alison L. Baker, Christina L. Henry, Elizabeth A. Wells, James A. Francis, Joshua R.I. Cohen, Linda Jun, Peter Holland, Robert S. Sola, Robert W. Murphy, Ronald L. Burdge, Scott C. Borison, Sophia A. Romero, Stacy M. Bardo
Recorded on: Aug. 14, 2020
PLI Program #: 274934

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.

Stacy Bardo is the founder of Bardo Law, P.C., a consumer protection litigation firm in Chicago, Illinois.  Stacy has 18 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 a member of NACA’s Board of Directors from 2012-2018, serving two years as Co-Chair of the Board, and currently chairs NACA’s Ethics Committee.  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.  In 2018, Stacy joined PLI’s faculty for Representing the Pro Bono Client: Consumer Law Basics and the 23rd Annual Consumer Financial Services Institute.

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

Adrienne D. McEntee is a member of Terrell Marshall Law Group, PLLC in Seattle, Washington. Ms. McEntee graduated from the University of Washington School of Law in 2003, where she was a member of the Pacific Rim Law and Policy Journal and Moot Court Honor Board. The core of Ms. McEntee’s practice is complex litigation, including the prosecution of class actions on behalf of consumers, actions involving vulnerable adults, trusts and estates, and real estate and commercial disputes. Ms. McEntee has significant trial experience, having successfully tried commercial cases involving claims of breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, and breach of easement. Prior to joining TMLG, Ms. McEntee was a member of Tousley Brain Stephens PLLC, where she practiced for five years. Before entering private practice, Ms. McEntee worked with the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, where she prosecuted a broad range of crimes. Ms. McEntee has tried approximately fifty cases and has briefed, argued, and won cases before the Washington State Court of Appeals. Ms. McEntee has been named on the Washington Super Lawyers list since 2018.

Alison L. Baker is the managing attorney at Watsonville Law Center, a non-profit legal services agency in the Monterey Bay Area. Watsonville Law Center (WLC) provides free legal services to low-income families, immigrants, and agricultural & service industry workers on California’s rural Central Coast. Alison’s practice focuses on social determinates of health and wellbeing. She specializes in using consumer law, housing law, and employment law to make long-term impacts in communities. Alison litigates cases involving unfair business practices and civil rights violations. She is admitted to practice in California and the Federal Courts of the Northern, Central, and Eastern Districts, and she has significant experience in arbitration and mediation.

Alison graduated with honors from the University of California, Davis in 1994, where her studies included one year of study abroad at La Universidad Complutense in Madrid, Spain. Alison obtained her juris doctorate from Santa Clara University School of Law in 1997, where she earned a certificate of Public Interest Law, worked as a judicial extern in the United States District Court, Northern District, and at the East San Jose Community Law Center.

Alison spent the first decade of her legal career in private practice, focusing on consumer protection and public interest cases, including civil jury and bench trials, before joining the Santa Cruz County Superior Court in 2008 as a Judicial Attorney. With the Superior Court, Alison served as the Civil and Small Claims Advisor at the Court’s Self Help Center and office of the Family Law Facilitator. In 2018, Alison joyfully returned to advocacy, and joined Watsonville Law Center, as the bilingual staff attorney for the medical-legal partnership with Federally Qualified Health Center, Salud Para La Gente. With Salud, Alison is creating a strategy to ensure access to health-improving legal services for Salud’s more than 28,000 patients. Since joining Watsonville Law Center, Alison has assisted hundreds of clients, including representation in consumer, employment, and domestic violence survivors’ rights, and she developed and manages projects for the medical-legal partnership, including the Maternal Health Initiative. The Maternal Health Initiative informs pregnant women of risks associated with pesticide exposure and other dangerous working conditions, to prevent fetal injury, including premature birth.

Alison is a member of the National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA), American Association for Justice, the Santa Cruz County Bar Association, and the Monterey County Bar Association. Outside of work, Alison enjoys traveling and dinner parties with family and friends. Alison is delighted to be practicing law in the Monterey Bay Area, where she was born and raised. During the Covid-19 quarantine, Alison spent way too much time playing trivia and cards with her husband and their two teenagers, and walking the dogs around their Soquel hills neighborhood.

Beth is a partner at the Burdge Law Office in Dayton, Ohio. She graduated from the University of Toledo College of law, cum laude, and joined the firm in 2004. She concentrates her practice on breach of warranty cases for RVs, and oversees the firm’s lemon law, and breach of warranty cases for cars, motorcycles, and boats, and consumer protection auto fraud cases against used car dealers. Beth has represented RV consumers in Federal Court mediations in Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky, in Federal Court jury trials in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and has represented Ohio and Kentucky new and used car, motorcycle, and boat consumers in state court mediations, jury trials, and arbitration hearings, and before multiple Ohio Courts of Appeal. Beth was selected by Super Lawyers Magazine as a Rising Star, in the practice area of Consumer Law, in 2013, 2014, 2015, and again in 2016. Beth is a member of the National Association of Consumer Advocates and the National Consumer Law Center, and has spoken as a guest lecturer on Consumer Law topics at national seminars and conferences, and at the University of Toledo College of Law. Beth is admitted to practice law in Ohio, Kentucky, and Iowa, in the U.S. District Courts for the Northern District of Ohio, Southern District of Ohio, Eastern District of Kentucky, Western District of Kentucky, Northern District of Indiana, and Southern District of Indiana, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

Christina Henry is a staunch advocate for clients against predatory lenders and unfair debt collection practices, and takes legal action when violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act have occurred. Christina represents consumer and small business debtors in Chapter 7, 13, and 11 bankruptcy cases, and negotiates debt with creditors and lenders when that process better serves her clients.

Christina is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Boston College Law School, and served as law clerk to the Hon. Whitney Rimel, Bankruptcy Judge for the Eastern District of California. Prior to co-founding Henry, DeGraaff & McCormick, Christina ran Seattle Debt Law, a consumer law firm she founded on the belief that financially troubled individuals deserve fair and honest legal representation in today’s high-risk consumer environment. Christina has also represented consumer and small business debtors at Crocker Law Group and residential mortgage lenders at Routh Crabtree Olsen in bankruptcy cases throughout Washington state.

Christina is fluent in Mandarin Chinese, and sustains her interest in international issues.

Jim Francis has been admitted to practice before the United States Court of Appeals for the Third, Fourth and Ninth Circuits, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, as well as the Pennsylvania and New Jersey state courts. He is a 1992 graduate of Muhlenberg College (B.A., cum laude) and a 1995 graduate of the Temple University Beasley School of Law. In law school, he won the 1995 Wapner, Newman & Wigrizer, P.C. award for excellence in civil trial advocacy, was awarded outstanding oral advocacy and served as President of the Student Bar Association. Following law school, Mr. Francis was associated with Kolsby, Gordon, Robin, Shore & Rothweiler in Philadelphia. Since 1998, he has focused his practice in consumer protection litigation, with a particular concentration in fair credit reporting, fair debt collection practices and consumer class actions.

In 2004, Mr. Francis was the youngest lawyer to be ranked in the Top 100 Superlawyers in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia Magazine and Pennsylvania Super Lawyers magazine. He was subsequently ranked a Top 100 Pennsylvania Superlawyer in 2008, 2012, and 2014, and has been regularly ranked one of the Top 100 Superlawyers in Philadelphia since 2004.

In 2017, Mr. Francis served as trial counsel in a $60 million dollar class action jury verdict, which is the largest verdict in history for a case brought under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. In 2009, Mr. Francis argued the seminal FCRA case of Cortez v. Trans Union before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. He lectures and speaks extensively on the FCRA for continuing legal education seminars, law schools and community groups, and has published articles on the FCRA. He has appeared on various news programs including the Today Show and PBS NewsHour to discuss consumer-related issues, and was featured in The Philadelphia Inquirer’s biographical “Question & Answer” segment in February of 2009. He has been certified to serve as class counsel in over 50 consumer class actions, has been trial counsel in three class actions to successful plaintiff’s verdicts, and has served as counsel in some of the largest FCRA settlements in history.

In May of 2014, Mr. Francis was awarded the Community Legal Services of Philadelphia's Equal Justice Award at its annual Breakfast of Champions. He was also selected as one of a small national group of plaintiffs' lawyers to be featured in Law 360's Titans of the Plaintiff's Bar series in October of 2014. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA).

Linda Jun is Senior Policy Counsel at Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund (AFREF), a national coalition formed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis that is working to lay the foundation for a strong, stable, and ethical financial system. She leads AFREF’s policy work on consumer and housing issues, advocating before Congress and federal agencies in collaboration with coalition partners from consumer advocacy, civil rights, legal services, academia, labor, and other public interest organizations on a wide array of consumer protection matters. Before joining AFREF, she was 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, including administrative complaints, pleadings, settlement conference negotiations, motion practice, discovery, and affirmative litigation in state and federal court. She has presented at several local, state, and national trainings on a wide range of foreclosure related issues to attorneys, housing counselors, and court personnel. In 2016, she was one of four primary authors of the NYRL 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 for 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.

Peter Holland is recognized as a national authority on consumer protection law, with a special emphasis on debt buyer lawsuits. Prior to his return to full time private practice, he ran the Consumer Protection Clinic at the University of Maryland Law School for 5 years, where he published several groundbreaking articles, and trained law students and pro bono lawyers in debt defense and consumer protection litigation. Peter is a frequent lecturer at state and national consumer protection conferences, and is regularly sought out by other lawyers as a mentor, adviser and co-counsel. He has been counsel in several impact cases dealing with consumer rights. He has also been co-counsel in class actions resulting in the dismissal of thousands of lawsuits filed by debt buyers, automobile finance and property management companies. His scholarship on debt buyers has been cited by courts and academics alike, and he is a frequent commentator in the media on consumer litigation issues.

Robert S. Sola is the founding member of Robert S. Sola, P.C., a consumer law firm based in Portland, Oregon. He specializes in cases under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and has been handling such cases since 1996. Mr. Sola represents consumers across the country, and has litigated FCRA cases in more than 25 states.

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, state bar organizations and private groups. In 2018, Mr. Sola was a featured speaker at a credit reporting conference in Lagos, Nigeria.

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 Co LPA, 8250 Washington Village Dr., Dayton, OH 45459, e-mail With 40+ years of trial and appellate Consumer Law experience, he now handles primarily defective recreational vehicle cases and practices in numerous federal courts in several states and is admitted to the state bars of Ohio and Kentucky, actively practicing in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and elsewhere. Websites:,, and others. Mr. Burdge actively co-counsels in several states and is one of the few Consumer Law Trial Attorneys who has Class Action trial experience. A member of several national and international Consumer Law professional organizations, he has several dozen published articles and book chapters and has lectured nationally on Consumer Law topics, Attorney Fee issues, the Business of Law, and Trial Practice and Strategy topics related to Consumer Laws, Lemon Laws, and Udap Laws. Since 2005 he remains the only Consumer Law attorney in Ohio to be repeatedly named to Ohio Super Lawyer status whose practice is entirely devoted to representation of consumers. In 2004, he was named Trial Lawyer of the Year by the National Association of Consumer Advocates and later was elected to the NACA Board of Directors. Since 1999 he has conducted the annual United States Consumer Law Attorney Fee Survey and since 2015 he has conducted the annual United States Consumer Bankruptcy Law Attorney Fee Survey, both of which have continuously resulted in published reports on the law office economics of United States attorneys who represent consumers. For over two decades Mr. Burdge has testified as an expert witness on Consumer Law and Attorney Fee issues in numerous state and federal courts.

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:

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, 10th and 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and various federal district courts across the country.

Sophia Romero is a staff attorney in the Consumer Rights Project at Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada. She has litigated consumer issues since her admission to the bar in 2011. Sophia represents clients in all types of consumer related cases including automobile fraud, illegal repossession, and Fair Debt Collection Practices Act cases. Sophia represents clients in both state and federal court, including the US Supreme Court. She also handles both individual and class action cases. Sophia also participates in many community outreach events and teaches consumer education classes for the public as well as routinely appears as a guest speaker for the Consumer Law class at the William S. Boyd School of Law. Sophia has been quoted in the New York Times, on Good Morning America, MSNBC, and NBC Nightly News speaking on consumer issues, specifically starter interruption devices. Sophia is also an active member of the National Association of Consumer Advocates, including being the state chair for the State of Nevada.

Sophia is a graduate of the Gonzaga University School of Law. As a student attorney in the Consumer Law Clinic, Sophia appeared in both Federal and State court and took an illegal repossession case to the Washington State Court of Appeals, Division III. Sophia is licensed to practice law in both Nevada and New Mexico. Sophia received a J.D. from Gonzaga in 2011 and a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from New Mexico State University in 2007.