Advocate Attorneys is a start-up Washington, D.C. law firm led by Marc Dann, former Ohio Attorney General, and Melanie Murray Mfume, a leading foreclosure prevention attorney. Our mission is to provide access to justice for consumers in their potential claims against debt collectors, mortgage servicers, credit reporting agencies, banks, credit card companies, debt buyers, payday lenders, and other financial predators. Advocate Attorneys seeks to establish co-counsel relationships in all 50 states to pursue these claims.
Advocate Attorneys is working to develop a nationwide network of attorneys trained to spot and litigate consumer claims against financial predators. Among other referral sources, Advocate Attorneys contracts with Debt Cleanse Group Legal Services, a legal services plan (available in 46 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico), to provide legal review and representation for all state and federal consumer protection claims on behalf of Debt Cleanse members. Advocate provides full litigation services on a contingent fee basis when possible, supplementing the Debt Cleanse national network of debt defense attorneys that assist members in litigating or resolving their debts.
We have carefully crafted an 18 week training program that focuses on the practical business side of building a consumer law practice as well as the substantive law around claims made pursuant to federal consumer protection statutes such as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, the Truth in Lending Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Electronic Funds Transfer Act, and relevant state law consumer protection statutes. Additionally, we train the fellows to handle state level debt collection defense and foreclosure defense matters. However the training is just the beginning of the value of the fellowship to the participant. Advocate offers on going roundtables on emerging issues in consumer law, a weekly open topic happy hour dialogue involving fellows and more experienced consumer protection attorneys, a list serve that has become a hub of information about potential types of claims to bring and trends in consumer protection law and ongoing mentorship by the fellowship’s committed faculty.
We have partnered with the National Association of Consumer Advocates to provide our fellows with access to NACA’s video training library featuring seminars from the country’s top subject matter experts. Advocate Attorneys also covers the cost of NACA membership for all fellows.
Each week we host a two (2) hour Zoom “roundtable” that includes subject matter experts who will provide a substantive presentation and live Q&A for our fellows. To date, these roundtables have been very well-received by our fellows as an additional learning tool and as an opportunity to start developing relationships with these experts.
Each week we also host a one (1) hour Zoom “mini roundtable” that provides an unscripted, open, in-house forum for discussion with our fellows about new developments, case law, best practices, strategies, case consults, client hypos, etc. We encourage our fellows to attend and bring all questions and ideas. These smaller roundtables also provide a great networking/bonding opportunity among our fellows and the Advocate Attorneys team.
All fellows will be invited to join our listserve so that they can ask questions and receive tips, articles, case law and other substantive information in real time. Our subject matter experts are a part of this listserve and are always happy to provide additional support for our fellows. The fellows also have access to NACA’s listserves which provide even greater access to colleagues, experts, case law and information from around the country.
Advocate Attorneys provides practice management software (Clio Grow and Clio Manage), email accounts (G Suite), and phone software with their own individual numbers based on their respective zip codes (GoToConnect) to all fellows at no charge.
The fellows (picture and bio) will be included on Advocate Attorneys’ website.
We have created a fellowship form bank for all letter and pleading templates that the fellows will need to work their cases.
Fellows will also be in a position to serve as local counsel in their state to individual and class action consumer claims by some of the most active consumer protection law firms in the country. Advocate fellows also become part a flexible law firm that can large discovery and litigation challenges that banks, mortgage servicers and debt collectors have historically used to intimidate and wear down small consumer protection law firms.
Fellows will have both immediate hourly and contingent fee opportunities upon graduating from the program.
Participation in all part of the training is mandatory for each fellow. Failure to participate can result in removal from the program.
Although the training is 18 weeks, we ask the fellows to commit to serving as Co-Counsel/Of Counsel for Advocate Attorneys for at least year. The fellows will also be free to accept clients referred to them outside of Advocate Attorneys. We do not limit the fellows with regard to what other types of cases they wish to handle. If there is an opportunity to co-counsel with Advocate Attorneys, we are happy to collaborate.
Each fellow must be licensed in both the state and federal bars in the jurisdictions where they intend to accept cases.
Each fellow will be required to obtain (and maintain) malpractice insurance within thirty (30) days of class start date. Proof of coverage will be required. Once assigned cases, each fellow will be required to take professional responsibility for his/her case.
Each fellow will be required to have/obtain a trust account within thirty (30) days of the class start date.
The fellows will learn how to work a file from consult to case set up to settlement negotiation and/or litigation. Toward the end of the fellowship, the fellows will be invited to “ride along” on consults so that they can learn how to properly conduct new intakes and interviews with prospective clients. Once a case has been identified by a fellow, and the new client retained, the fellow will participate in a substantive litigation planning meeting with Advocate Attorneys to ensure proper case management and support. Regular meetings will be scheduled during the pendency of the case to ensure that the case is moving forward.
The fellows are permitted to keep their Clio accounts and GoToConnect phone numbers at no charge so long as they actively participate in working with Advocate Attorneys.
Most importantly, Advocate Attorneys’ partners and subject matter experts remain available to provide constant mentoring for the fellows at all times throughout the fellowship. Our goal is to train confident and competent attorneys that can continue to move forward with consumer protection as a part of their respective practices while building independent relationships.
Our next class will begin June 30, 2021 and will run for 18 weeks. Video information sessions will be held May 24, 2021, June 2, 2021 and June 10, 2021. Video interviews for the fellows will be held June 22-June 24, 2021 with the official class announcement to be made on June 25, 2021. To maximize safety considerations, our entire fellowship will take place online for this next class.