Recently a tipster (send in your tips here) passed a consumer contract for debt relief services from US Legal Services Group (uslsgroup.com)
According to the US Legal Group website they resolve consumer debt problems and they work with financially distressed consumers. They indicate they have attorneys in the following states.
As part of the site they provide a number of examples of settlements. – Source. They even provide this file as proof of settlements. What I found to be very interesting is that if you watch the video below showing me scrolling through the settlements, I could not find a single settlement that said these were performed by US Legal Services Group. In fact some of the settlements have blocks over the information below. If you simply stop the video as the page turns you can read the information below.
So as you scroll through the hidden information it shows the settlement company contacted on these was:
- Complete Debt Assistance
- Consumer Debt Law Firm
And I even think the settlement letters revel the names of the consumers they helped. Otherwise, why would they be to staff members with middle initials? That certainly seems disturbing for a law firm to do that if in fact these are the client names. The problem is I can’t tell if they are the lawyer names since they don’t list their lawyers on their site.
The site says U.S. Legal Services Group is located at:
780 W. Town & Country Rd.
Orange, CA 92868 – Source
But the privacy terms on the site say the entity responsible for the site is:
National Consumer Legal Services, Inc.
10161 Park Run Dr. #150
Las Vegas, NV 89145 – Source
A search of the State Bar of California, using there advanced search that allows you to search by firm, could find no law firm by the name of U.S. Legal Services Group.
The domain name, for what I now believe to be this alleged law firm, is owned by:
383 1st Street
Jersey City, New Jersey 07302
The domain name was registered on October 25, 2010.
The Las Vegas address listed is actually that of a shared office space for A Better Office. – Source
The Orange County address has a company called Consumer Debt Law Firm, Inc. listed at 780 W. Town & Country Rd., Orange, CA 92868 (source), a name that was on one of the settlements shown above. The State Bar of California shows no law firm registered under that address.
A check of the California corporation records did uncover that US Legal Services Group is a registered corporation as of October 25, 2010, the same day the domain name was registered, and is listed at 225 Broadway Suite 2100, San Diego, CA 92101.
A search of that address located Koeller Nebeker Carlson Haluck, LLP, KNCH LAw. A law firm that says they specialize “in representing builders and developers. From residential real estate acquisition, development and financing, to construction and business litigation.” – Source. I called the law firm and they said US Legal Services Group does not provide services at that address and is not located at that address.
An examination of the settlement results National Consumer Legal Services claims on their site appears to be the same file or at least very similar to the results shown on the US Legal Group website. Here is this file from the NCLS site.
The BBB says that the president of National Consumer Legal Services is Charles Pollock, Esq. The BBB says the business was incorporated in August, 2009. – Source
The State Bar of California does have a listing for Charles Max Pollock and he is authorized to practice law in California. He does not list US Legal Group as a firm he is related to on his record. – Source
The two sites even use the same client testimonials which seems very odd since they are in fact two different corporations and entities.
Let’s Get Back to the Contract
So all the other issues distracted me. Let me get back to the US Legal Services Group Contract.
The contract I have shows the fees for debt settlement services are primarily front loaded. The consumer makes an initial monthly payment of about $700 and about $600 is taken in as a legal fee plus an additional $81.96 per month as a “Supplemental Legal Fee.”
For the next 19 months the consumer pays about $500 a month and about $240 a month is taken as legal fees, plus of course the continuing supplemental legal fee as part of that.
By the end of month 20, after paying about $7,200 to US Legal Services Group they are estimated to have about $140 in their reserve account for settlements. The consumer in this case has about $21,000 of enrolled debt. The Supplemental Legal Fees after month 20 through month 48 equal about $750. So the consumer will pay about $8,000 in fees or about 38% of the enrolled debt.
The contract signed by the consumer has a very interesting clause to attempt to loophole with the face-to-face meeting approach. The contract says:
This contract will not become effective until: 1. Client completed a face-to-face sales presentation with a representative of the Law Firm prior to the execution if the sales process involved interstate telephone calls.
In the case of the contract I have on hand I know the client was not located in California.
The contract includes a section that would allow the consumer to convert their case into a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, but here is the kicker, the consumer will pay $3,000 for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing, more than double what other local attorneys are charging. – Source
The contract says:
If Client qualifies and is otherwise in complaince, all fees paid into the program (not savings) shall be credited against the cost of the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. If Client paid less than three thousand dollars ($3,000.00) in fees, the Law Firm will still provide the services but Client will be responsible to pay additional fees until the total amount of fees paid equals three thousand dollars ($3,000) or a lesser amount if under applicable rules in the judicial district where the Bankruptcy petition will be filed caps legal fees at a lower amount. In such cases, the cost shall be the maximum amount allowed. If Client has paid more than the required amount in fees prior to filing of the Chapter 7 Petition, Client will not receive a refund of any excess.
According to the contract, the $3,000 paid for Chapter 7 bankruptcy does not include any fees and costs associated with the filing. If the clients wants to switch out of the debt settlement program and instead file Chapter 7 bankruptcy the contract says the consumer will have to pay “a nonrefundable additional $100 administration change fee plus all of the other fees and anticipated costs.” Ouch!
More points from the contract:
- The contract says that Global Client Solutions is the administrator of the clients escrow account
- Fees earned are not refundable.
- “You further understand that even though USLS Group is a law firm, Debt Resolution services may be provided by agents and subcontractors who are not attorneys, but who will operate under supervision of an attorney licensed to practice law in your state of residence.”
- The contract lists the alternatives to debt settlement and one of those options is “credit repair.”
- Your credit score may be impacted.
- There is a risk of legal action.
So let’s say this consumer sticks with the program for the full 48 months, settles all of their debt, and avoids getting sued, which is unlikely. By the time the balances have increased the total amount settled could be around $11,000. Then you add on the $8,000 in fees, the client would have paid about $19,000 to settle $21,000 of debt.
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