The Uphill Slide

There is always something.

Where Is Our Money?

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Since September 2014 our family has come to depend on the services of attorneys. I recognize too many of them on the streets of Pittsburgh now. There is one from an office Jacob and I visited but did not select that seems to be shadowing me. We meet and greet on the street on a regular basis. I wonder if he recognizes me or is he just a friendly guy.

Attorneys are like obstetricians. They hire support staff to assist them. When I was in labor with Jacob, the doctor did not appear until that moment of birth. Someone observed that doctors were just the catchers. That is the way with attorneys. Messages to the attorney may go unanswered, and you quickly learn that you should leave your messages with the paralegal or auxiliary staff. The attorney will catch the big stuff.

When Jacob was arrested on September 12, 2014, we scrambled to find an attorney. That was a Friday night (always the best time for arrest so the accused gets that taste of jail life and the weekend stifles the efforts to secure bail and an attorney). Calls to bailbonds(wo)men who proclaimed 24-hour service went unanswered. We had gotten the gist of the charges from Jacob’s in-laws, so at least we knew what to look for in an attorney.

We would not know more until Jacob called from jail. When Jacob called,  his voice broke and my heart broke.

“We are trying to get you out. We love you.”

We did a Google search and started with those names at the top of the list. Are the top the best or has some algorithm placed them there below those paid ads? David S. Shrager was at the top of search and ads. We researched his website and news articles about him.

Shrager’s office was in walking distance of the Allegheny County Courthouse. He seemed knowledgeable, capable, and sympathetic to Jacob’s case and our distress. His paralegal was personable and empathetic. We signed a contract and paid with a combination of credit and cash. We breathed easier to know we had taken this second step to procure Jacob’s release and prepare for his defense. Shrager (or perhaps even more so, his paralegal) worked on obtaining Jacob’s release from jail. The next step was the preliminary hearing on September 24, 2014; and Shrager fortuitously hired a court stenographer.

A few weeks after that hearing, David S. Shrager was dead, taking our money with him. It was an unexpected death, and he reportedly left over 300 clients without representation. Obviously, he could not take the money with him; but it was lost.

We were scrambling again for a new attorney. This time it was Jacob and I doing the interviews. The paralegal from Shrager’s office gave us two names, and we selected a third. Our choice was eliminated almost from the moment we sat down, but he gave me the best advice of that day. He saw that we had charged a portion of the retainer and suggested we file a claim with the credit card company. Perhaps I would have thought of that later, but sooner was better than later in trying to recoup some of our money.

The rest of the money was gone, so in early November we filed a claim with the Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security. We have received nothing yet. In January of this year, I called their office and was told the next news would be a letter telling us the claim was before the board.

Does a claim take this long because the board is comprised of volunteers with only two staff members? Or does it take this long because of the volume of claims against Pennsylvania attorneys? We have no idea where our claim stands in that queue of claims. Is it close to the front or still at the back?

If and when we receive our money, it will seem like a windfall; we will have forgotten that it was ours.

Here from the website http://www.palawfund.com/ is:

“Mission Statement

The mission of the Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security is to reimburse victims of attorney dishonesty in the practice of law; to preserve the integrity and protect the good name of the legal profession; and to promote public confidence in the legal system and the administration of justice in Pennsylvania.”

and

http://www.palawfund.com/palaw/index.php/general-information/frequently-asked-questions

“Q. How long does it take to have a claim processed?
A. We can not offer a specific time frame as to when a claim will be considered. Both the claimant and the attorney will be notified when the claim has been scheduled for review. Claims are processed for review and disposition by the Board in the order in which they are received. This is the most objective process for all claims filed with the Fund.”

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