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Time is Critical in Debt Defense Part 2

Time! Time!! – It’s All about Time

This is Part 2 of this Article. For Part 1, click here: Time! Time!! It’s All about Time.

Perceived Lack of Resources

Because of the nature of the beast, you are also going to be seen as having fewer resources. Does that mean anybody gives you a break? Wake up – this is life in the jungle where predators eat the weak. You must learn how to battle the perception of weakness. Again, this involves the careful use of time. You are perceived as poor, distracted, and ignorant by the high and mighty debt lawyers. You must overcome that perception by staying on top of things from the very beginning. You’ll be tested in discovery because motions to compel are time-consuming and boring. But you will be tested in many ways. Stay on top of it!

Notice, too, that perception of lack of resources is different than any actual lack. Their perceiving that you lack resources will cause them to try to take advantage of you (debt collectors) or blow you off so they can get to “more important” things (judges and their office staff). Staying on top of things can reduce the number of tricks they try and the impact of the ones they do try.

Actual or Perceived Lack of Experience

I lump these together because almost all pro se parties are unfamiliar with the law – and expected to be so by the lawyers on the other side and the court. Expect that to mean anybody will help you? Again, get real. It means you will be patronized by the lawyer and ignored (to some extent) by the judge. You must counter this lack of experience through preparation. You should take the time to watch a trial and other court proceedings, and you must also take the time to think through your points and locate authority for the positions you take. You can do all this, but it takes time.

Some Resources

As I pointed out above, the three “faces” of the issue you deal with are time, organization, and discipline. I can’t help you with discipline, but all my materials, and specially the membership, are designed to save you time. The Litigation Manual was created to make you familiar with the process in general, and the motions packs should help you with time at certain critical points. And of course my website in general is a resource.

Two New Products

Two products designed to give further help are the trial binder and the Guide to Legal Research and Analysis. The Trial Binder helps you put the materials you need into the most useful order, while the Guide to Legal Research and Analysis helps you get started on the ways you think about and prepare for your case.

Using Time – critical in debt law pro se

Deadlines in the Law Are Always Critical

When you are involved in litigation – either willingly or unwillingly, either as the plaintiff who initiated the suit, or as a defendant dragged into court – time is always critical. You will have deadlines for every single thing that you do. These deadlines are either:

  • obvious, explicit deadlines set forth and given to you by a court “Scheduling Order;”
  • less obvious but just as explicit deadlines established by either your state’s Rules of Civil Procedure or your own court’s “Local Rules;” or
  • not obvious or explicit – but implied by the fact that there is a date set for trial.

Deadlines: Explicit or Implicit

Courts will often create what is called a “scheduling order” which puts down the times by which times must be completed. You have to count back the days to figure out when you need to get started. For example, if the court sets April 30 as the date by which discovery must be completed, if you’re in Missouri you figure everything out in this way. Parties get 30 days to respond to discovery – they will object to everything, and you must send them a “good-faith” letter before filing a motion to compel. They get 5 business days to respond to a motion to compel, and it will take you 10 days to write one. Therefore, you must serve your last discovery 30 + 5 +  10 + a week for the good-faith letter + any time added by the Mailbox Rule + the amount of time the court will give them to give you the discovery. That means you need to file your last discovery at least 3 months before the end of the discovery period. In that example, you had one explicit courrt-imposed deadline, and several other “implied” deadlines in order to get it done.

One of Your First Steps

Your very first step as a litigant must be to find out what rules control your case – and most specially what rules control the deadlines in your case. When it comes to missing a deadline, excuses are for losers. If you’ve missed a deadline, you must make your excuse and hope for the best! But never forget that there is a price to pay. You lose ground, either legally or in the eyes of the court and the other side, for every deadline you miss. You also add extreme stress to your life and risk to your case if you are always near and sometimes miss deadlines. I cannot make that any plainer, can I?

And another thing to keep in mind: time may be the cross on which your case could die, but it has two other aspects: organization and discipline. Find out what you need to do and when you need to do it. Then set up things so that you can do what you’re supposed to do (organization) and then, actually do it (discipline).

Having read this, you have no excuse for coming to me (or anybody) and saying that you didn’t know when something was due.

Why Time is So Important

Why is time so critically important to everybody, and most particularly to pro se parties? Let’s answer the second question – the most important one – first: why it matters above all to you.

Pro se parties in general, and specially in debt cases, must understand the way time works in their cases more than anyone else for three reasons:

  • your actual lack of resources;
  • your perceived lack of resources;
  • and your actual and perceived lack of experience.

The added “kicker” in debt cases is that you are maving into a headwind caused by the fact that so few people (represented by lawyers or not) defend debt cases with intelligence. Everybody expects you to “roll over” or, as the Beatles song goes, “get back to where you once belonged”

Actual Lack of Resources

Most debt defendants or people involved in debt-related litigation (as, for example, filing a claim for violation of the FDCPA where you are the plaintiff) simply do not have very much money. This type of law, in general, was designed for people without much money, and that’s a problem that many, but not all, pro se parties face. An actual lack of resources means that you have to scramble to get the things you need, from law books to typing paper, from trips to the library to trips to the court room. And daycare – to mention just a few resources that may not be readily available to you. To offset these actual resources you must schedule time enough to overcome them.

Click here for Part 2 of this article, Time! Time!!