Judge Doug Anderson, president of the Pikes Peak Pro Bono Project, said he’s been getting calls for the last few years from people in various stages of foreclosure who need help, but he hasn’t been able to find qualified attorneys to take the cases.
The reason is that most general practice attorneys in this area don’t have any experience with and have limited knowledge about foreclosure proceedings and issues, he said.
“They’re complicated cases and they take a long time to litigate,” Anderson said. “There were only a few people in El Paso County who were qualified who were willing to take those cases on.”
That’s especially true for pro bono cases, but it’s hard to find attorneys able to take foreclosure cases even when the client has the means to pay, said local real estate attorney Debra Fortenberry.
“People can generally pay a flat fee for a consultation and some forms so they can better represent themselves,” Fortenberry said. “And there have been foreclosures where it was a mistake and those clients can pay.”
Fortenberry and Anderson hope an intensive training program at the courthouse March 9 will equip general practice attorneys to assist with foreclosure cases.
About 30 attorneys are attending a continuing legal education course for general practice lawyers March 9. Local and state legal real estate experts will lead local attorneys through a grueling day of education on real estate and foreclosure law.
The day, organized by Fortenberry, is designed to equip attorneys with everything they need to know in order to help clients who come to them with concerns about foreclosures.
“Usually they’re just looking for advice about what to expect and what they need to do,” Fortenberry said. “They want to know whether they have a good opportunity to save their home and stay in it or whether that makes financial sense.”
Speakers will include Andrew McCallin, first assistant to the Colorado Attorney General in consumer protection. He will discuss the multi-state $25 billion foreclosure settlement with the five biggest mortgage servicers, JPMorgan Chase, Citi, Ally Financial, Wells Fargo and Bank of America signed in February. Local real estate attorney Paul Murphy will offer up a foreclosure 101 over view for general practice lawyers. Dave Margrave, a Colorado Springs bankruptcy attorney will discuss bankruptcy law and options for clients facing foreclosure. Arvada lawyer Keith Gattenbein, who used to work for mortgage companies, will discuss loan servicer practices, financial incentives and anticipating servicer defenses. Denver attorney Sara Mobley will discuss loan modification options. Others, including Fortenberry, will discuss mediation and evictions.
She said her phone would ring constantly in 2009 and 2010 with people looking for answers about foreclosure. She couldn’t help all of them. The calls have slowed down these days.
“There’s more information out there available to people now,” she said. “My sense is that people are getting more information and getting at least a better idea of where to go on their own. Usually the calls that come in now are pretty specific and they know they want to litigate. It’s a more educated client base.”
But there are still more cases than she can handle on her own. And Anderson still has three to five cases a month that go through the screening process and are deemed valid cases that he can’t find a qualified attorney for through the Pro Bono Project.
But he’s confident this training will make a difference.
“This is a pretty comprehensive program,” he said. “These are all professional attorneys who have been practicing a long time and this is certainly going to set them on the right track.”
He said the response from area lawyers has been positive and many are interested in knowing more about foreclosures and in offering pro bono services.
Fortenberry said the day’s program will be recorded so those attorneys who want the information, but couldn’t attend the session, which has limited space, can get it.