Follow-up 6A to People being Sued for Debt

Yesterday I ended with a promise to talk about something that worries a lot of people. It seems to worry them even more than the possibility of losing, actually. What is that?

The fear of standing up in court and talking.

You would be amazed at how many of our members start out by saying they’d be happy to do anything but go into court and face the other side.

That’s very understandable. You figure the lawyer on the other side knows more than you do, can say things that embarrass you, and that you won’t say what needs to be said when the time comes.

It doesn’t happen like that, though. The process is much more gradual. Generally, you’ll start by answering the petition. That’s really easy – you just write down your response to each paragraph of the petition against you. In fact, it usually looks something like this:

  1. Admit my name is John Smith.
  2. Deny ever owing money to Debt Collector.
  3. Deny failing to pay any money owed to Debt Collector.

 

Wherefore, defendant requests this Court dismiss the petition with prejudice.

That will take you ten minutes to write – you don’t even have to type it in most courts. But to get to this point, you will have read some of our materials about debt collectors and the collection process. You’ll learn a little about what they’re suing you for and what law they’re trying to use.

You’ll start the learning process, in other words.

Then you’ll create some “discovery,” which is questions you ask them to answer. Not just any questions, though – questions designed to get the most information that matters from them. It’s kind of an art, but we have materials you can use as a guide, and you can find out much, much more at the teleconferences. By the time you have written the discovery, you will know much more about your case – and it will still be easy. This isn’t rocket science.

But it is a learning process. And as you work your way through the discovery and talk to us at teleconferences about it you’re actually learning a very important skill: HOW to talk about this stuff. After a few teleconferences, if you’re like most of our members, you’ve gotten used to the idea, and in reality you could talk about this stuff with anybody.

Fortunately (or un, as the case may be), the debt collectors do not seem to be able to respond to discovery without trying to stonewall you. That’s actually lucky, because you’re going to see – it will be very obvious – how dumb many of their objections are, how repetitive, and just how made-up they are. And then you’re going to call them and negotiate with their lawyer to send you the stuff. Now you’re doing two very important things: you’re making them spend expensive lawyer-time talking to you, and you’re learning how to talk about this stuff with someone who isn’t cooperative. It isn’t hard at all, as you will see – and you’re also learning the materials better as well as developing your case.

In many cases, that’s as far as it goes. They drop the case. But if they don’t, you will continue with the process, eventually talking to the judge.

And you’re going to find out that the judge may not know the law on this stuff as well as you do by now. You’ll have an agenda, you’ll have things to say, and the fact that it’s a judge no longer scares you. If it goes to trial, it will feel like almost any other argument you’ve ever had where you felt right.

And that’s really the way it’s probably going to go for you.

Sometimes the lawyer is smarter than you, often times not, but it doesn’t matter. The lawyer is just doing a job, and by this time so are you – it’s just that you will be much better prepared than the lawyer, and you’ll have what you need, while he probably won’t. The judge will be a little patronizing at first, but she will see what you’re doing soon enough.

No member has ever told me that he or she felt unprepared for court, and almost all of them have reported feeling quite comfortable. Most, it seems, have been congratulated on a job well done by the judge afterwards.

This is not an exaggeration – it really is this way. “But why?” You may wonder.

Remember that I said 97 percent of these cases either default or give up. That means neither the lawyer nor the judge expects much from you. It can take a while for it to sink in that something different is happening, but they will actually appreciate what you’re doing. Even the lawyer for the other side will, although he probably won’t tell you so. It’s refreshing and nice to see someone stand up for herself, and interesting when that person knows what she’s doing. Plus, and this is also quite important: the law is on your side. They really don’t have what they need to win. That means YOU should win.

The debt collector lawyer isn’t going to hate you for beating him, not that it would matter – it’s just a day’s work for him. I could tell you funny things about judges, too, but for now just take my word for it – most of them are all right, and they’ll be all right with you defending yourself.

The experience is so amazingly different than what most people come into the program expecting that it changes the way you look at lawyers and the law forever. Or so many members have told me. Of course they’re trying to get your money, and it’s serious stuff in one way. You have to do your work. But if you do – and we’ll do our best to make sure you do – you’ll probably be glad you went through it all.

And winning is oh so sweet. You can say good bye to a debt that’s probably been worrying you for quite some time. And by winning you’re more than halfway to getting the thing removed from your credit report.

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