A year or so ago, I was contacted by an attorney representing a firm that is listed in the Whispers and Warnings section of WritersWeekly.com. He said he would sue us if we didn’t remove the complaints about his firm from our website. His emails were quite menacing…so menacing in fact that we became suspicious. Aren’t attorneys schooled in the art of subtle manipulation and vague threats? Aren’t they trained to keep their cool at all times in order to prevail as the more intelligent animal in any debate?
We started doing some digging (which, to be quite honest with you, was really fun!) and determined within less than an hour that the attorney didn’t even exist. We believe he was actually the owner of the company in question, posing as an attorney.
Since he’d sent us emails and also responded to our contact box on our website (which provides us with his IP address), we had a nifty electronic paper trail to prove his actions. You see, not only was he now in trouble for not paying people who worked for him, but he was also committing fraud and practicing law without a license. When we asked for his bar number, he became hostile and refused to give it to us.
To confirm our suspicions, we contacted the California State Bar by phone and their representative said nobody by his name was licensed to practice law in that state. He’s now being investigated by the attorney general in another state for hiring people and not paying them, fraud and practicing law without a license.
And, we suspect it’s happening all over again!
I was contacted by an attorney (a “barrister”, which, in the United Kingdom is a “lawyer admitted to plead at the bar in the superior courts”) who threatened to sue me if I didn’t provide him with the I.P. address of one of the users on our forum. I, of course, refused. I don’t give out any type of contact information for our subscribers, our forum users, nor our authors. That information is private and I, after being threatened and cyber-stalked, am a staunch advocate for individuals’ privacy. Since his email was quite unprofessional and contained a few misspellings, I contacted the General Council of the Bar in the United Kingdom. Sure enough, the only attorney that appeared in their database under his name died in 2002.
It’s not entirely uncommon for dishonest people to pretend they’re attorneys in order to frighten others into doing their bidding. The people who resort to this tactic are, of course, already crooked, and you can usually determine if they’re real in just a few moments of online research.
First, if an attorney is harassing you, ask for his or her bar number. If they’re not really an attorney, a request for their bar number may halt the threats and all further contact. However, they may simply provide you with a false bar number. Whether they do or do not comply, don’t stop there. You don’t need a bar number to find out if they’re legitimate or not. Is their email address anonymous (through one of those free service providers?) or that of the company they’re claiming to represent? If their email address is that of a legitimate law firm, they may be a real attorney, but not always. It could be a clerk at the law firm or even the secretary of a friend (the friend being the person who is trying to make your life miserable). Use the information you have to find out which state they’re contacting you from. This is usually the state the company is located in. You can try looking up their IP address as well by viewing the source of the emails they sent to you. You can then paste the IP address or domain name into DNS411.com and it will tell you where the IP address is registered. You should also ask them, point blank, what state they are located in, but they may lie to you.
Then, get online and find the state bar website for the state they’re located in. You can usually search for them online at each individual state bar’s website. You can find lists of the state bar websites HERE and HERE.
You can look up attorneys in the United Kingdom HERE.
After studying what a “barrister” is in the UK, and after receiving confirmation from his own employer that the “barrister” was “never called” (it essentially means he’s not a barrister), we reported him to the Complaints Department of the General Council of the Bar. You can download their complaint form at http://www.barcouncil.org.uk. Click on the link to enter the site, and then click on the Complaints links in the left-hand column. To determine if someone is really licensed, click on “Bar Directory” at that same link and enter their name. Remember, they could be posing as someone else, so, if their name does pop up, contact the law firm they represent to ensure the person you’ve been corresponding with really is the attorney at that firm.
If you do determine that the attorney who is contacting you isn’t really an attorney, please file a complaint immediately with their state bar and also contact the police department in their city or country. What they’re doing is a serious crime. Your actions will save others from their crimes in the future. Only through selfless action can we make this world a better place for everyone.
About The Author
Angela Hoy is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, the author of 19 books, and the co-owner of BookLocker.com (one of the original POD publishers that still gets books to market in less than a month), PubPreppers.com (print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish), and Abuzz Press (the publishing co-op that charges no setup fees).
Angela lives on a 52' Irwin Center Cockpit Ketch (sailboat) with her family and pets. Keep up with her family's adventurous liveaboard lifestyle at GotNoTanLines.com
WritersWeekly.com - the free marketing ezine for writers, which features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday.
BookLocker.com - According to attorney Mark Levine, author of The Fine Print, BookLocker is: "As close to perfection as you're going to find in the world of ebook and POD publishing. The ebook royalties are the highest I've ever seen, and the print royalties are better than average. BookLocker understands what new authors experience, and have put together a package that is the best in the business. You can't go wrong here. Plus, they're selective and won't publish any manuscript just because it's accompanied by a check. Also, the web site is well trafficked. If you can find a POD or epublisher with as much integrity and dedication to selling authors' books, but with lower POD publishing fees, please let me know."
Abuzz Press offers FAST and FREE book publication, but only accepts a small percentage of submissions, and only works with U.S. authors.
PubPreppers.com - "We Prep, You Publish!" Print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish. Offers formatting and design services only, and then provides simple instructions for authors on where to sign up to have the print and ebook editions printed/listed/sold. Cut out the middle man. Keep 100% of what bookstores pay for your book!
Angela's POD Secrets Revealed Series can be found HERE.
Have a POD Book with another publisher? See if BookLocker can give you a better deal. (BookLocker offers "disgruntled author discounts" to those who want to move from other POD services.)
See BookLocker's publishing packages HERE.
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