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Debtors' Attorneys Beware

It amazes me sometimes the amount of trust clients place in their attorneys. They trust their attorney to lead them in the right direction and give them sound advice. I tell staff and clients on a regular basis that if the amount of trust clients place in you doesn't keep you up at night sometimes (even if you are doing a good job) then you have failed as an attorney. People come in my office scared and misinformed and they trust that I will explain the law to them so they understand and let them know their options so they may make the best financial decision possible. It is not possible to serve clients well if you are sitting at both ends of the table in a negotiation which is what happened in an Oregon case called In re: Smith-Canfield.

A woman went to her attorney for bankruptcy advise. Her attorney advised her that she would have an easier bankruptcy if she purchased a home prior to filing bankruptcy so she could claim a homestead exemption. He happened to know of a home that she could buy since he was also a real estate agent. The home was owned by another client of the attorney who desperately needed to sell the home quickly. The attorney/real estate agent then sold her the home. He made a commission off the sale of the home as a real estate agent. As her real estate agent, he advised the woman to not get a home inspection. Of course the home had problems that probably would have been visible in a home inspection. Once the problems were found, the city started fining the woman until she fixed the problems.

The issue is that the attorney/real estate agent thought he had three roles: 1) woman/buyer's bankruptcy attorney, 2) woman/buyer's real estate agent, and 3) seller's real estate attorney. He failed to acknowledge the possible conflicts of interest between his three roles. The court found that the attorney/real estate agent committed malpractice as the woman's real estate agent and breached his fiduciary duty as her attorney. He failed to act in his client's best interest because he had multiple clients and stood to benefit financially from the sale of the property and the bankruptcy.

You, as a client, are placing trust in your attorney. You need to make sure that you feel comfortable with your attorney and the attorney's staff. If you do not feel comfortable with your attorney and your attorney's staff, then you should continue to look around until you find an attorney you trust. At The Kehl Law Firm, P.C. we are a family and we treat you like family. Call 254-633-2876 or email us at [email protected] today for a free consultation to help you find a solution to your debt problems. Let my family help yours!

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