Recently I covered the debt settlement company World Law Plan / World Law Group. This company has affiliated itself with an attorney based model in order to continue to charge advanced fees to consumers.
I was just handed their client service agreement so I thought I’d take a few minutes to review it and point out some issues consumers should be aware of before they sign the agreement.
I did observe that the contract was a DocuSign agreement so it was signed by the consumer online and not in a face-to-face meeting.
Observations by Section
- It is a bit confusing that the company is marketing under two names, World :aw Group and World Law Plan. They appear to be the same and located at 12655 N. Central Expressway, Suite 800, Dallas, TX 75243. The services provided may be provided by independent contractors and not a legal group.
- The agreement is for “bundled legal services.”
- Client agrees to reimburse World Law Group for all fees earned per sections 13, 14, 15, and 16. Those fees are legal fees for bundled services, on-going monthly attorney evaluation fees at $84.95 per month, legal fees for debt settlement, and earned fees.
- During the first 30 days only, “the attorney will provide contract review, insolvency analysis, pre-bankruptcy screening and analysis, asset information collection and preservation analysis, Fair Debt Collection Practices Act education course and collection of violation incidents, litigation preparedness program including evaluation of effective creditor collection options, and access to the World Law Group library of legal forms and information.” Curiously the service includes a pre-bankruptcy screening but in my opinion that should have been performed prior to anyone being enrolled for a service they believe has been sold to avoid bankruptcy. It is not clear how much is charged for that bundle of services. It is not individually priced.
- On a monthly basis the company will contact client and ask what’s new.
- The contract mentions the agreement is under the statutes of the State Bar Associations where the agreement is enforced but does not say where that actually is? The agreement appears to be between World Law Group, located in Texas and not a licensed attorney in the state where the consumer lives.
- The client will be assigned to an attorney in the state where the client lives but this agreement does not include many of the legal services a consumer would expect to receive from an attorney they hire. See next section.
- The agreement does not include any appearance in court by the client’s attorney, nor does it include any litigation costs, any appeal costs, and no court costs are not included. In addition the client will have to pay the local attorney, above the amounts specified in this agreement, for “pre-approved costs to the local attorney as they are incurred.” That is very open-ended. If the client does not pay those fees within 14 days the agreement may be terminated. The agreement does not provide for the preparation, filing, and appearance by an attorney in any bankruptcy proceedings. So if this agreement and fees do not resolve the consumers problem and they have to file bankruptcy, that will be at an added expense. It also says that the client agrees the has NOT represented the service can stop all collection calls or correspondence.
- The local attorney will tell client how much additional services cost.
- The settlements are not actually provided by the attorney but by the “Law Firm’s Processing Division.” The processing division is World Law Plan which to the best of my belief is not a law firm.
- So above they say that the settlements are actually outsourced but here they say the “attorney will engage in the settlement process” with a lowball offer to the creditors. But what happens if the consumer does not have 10%-20% saved to meet the offer if the creditor should actually accept such an offer? It appears that while the client has the right to accept settlement offers, if the offer is for less than 40% of the original debt the client is giving the attorney the “implied right of settlement authorization.”
- If the client manages to settle a debt directly with one of their creditors if contacted by the creditor then the client will still owe the fee to World Law Group. It also makes the statement that “Attorney hereby advises CLIENT not to resolve their debts directly with creditors.”
- This section says that the cost of “bundled services” is defined in Schedule A but in the complete agreement I have there is no Schedule A. The pages included in the client agreement are a cover page, creditor information page, client information page, hardship and budget analysis, client service agreement, notice of cancellation, acknowledge of cancellation effect, client information authorization, special purpose account agreement, a table showing monthly payment for 48 months. There is also a “retainer” fee of $199 but I seriously doubt the client has actually paid the $199 fee to the local attorney so has actually not “retained” anything. The section references this Schedule A also contains a schedule of payments but the unnamed final document in the client agreement I have does lay out the monthly payments but provides no breakdown at all of the monthly payment. There is no way to determine how much the bundled service fee is.
- Monthly fees are $84.95 and $9.45 to Global Client Solutions. Over the course of the 48 month proposed plan that would add a total of $4,531.20 above the amount to be paid for settlement services.
- More fees are referenced in Schedule A but there is no Schedule A with the agreement that is labeled as Schedule A or any page that contains the information described that would appear on Schedule A.
- Fees will be taken when they have been defined to have been earned.
- Client acknowledges that no guarantees or predictions about the outcome of the services have been made. I find that hard to believe that the sales pitch did not say the debt would be eliminated for X% or within X period of time. So if no guarantees have been made then how can they make the statement “Attorney shall provide its best efforts to complete the contracted services within the term of the contract.” Client agrees interest may still be charged on their debts, they may be sued by their creditors, negative information will be reported on their credit report, they may owe taxes from forgiven debt.
- The agreement says that the client “independently of Attorney, has discontinued or decided to discontinue payments to creditors.” Yet it is part of nearly all debt settlement sales pitches that the consumer is told to stop making their payments.
- The agreement again references Schedule A and this time calls it the Legal Program Fee Schedule, but it still does not exist in this client agreement.
- Attorney may kick client out of the program at any time by written notice but client must complete a notice of cancellation and acknowledgement of cancellation effect for in order to cancel.
- In the arbitration clause it says that the rules of New York, New York will apply and arbitration will take place there even though the debt settlement company is located in Texas and the client is located in yet another state.
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