Debt Collection Study of Offer of Representation and Counseling

Dalie Jimenez of Connecticut, James Greiner of Harvard, Lois R. Lupica of Maine, & Rebecca L. Sandefur of the American Bar Foundationand Illinois have written Using a Randomized Control Trial to Accomplish Multiple Goals: An RCT Evaluating What Works for Individuals in Financial Distress, Investigating the Debt Collection System, Exploring Ways to Increase Access to Justice, and Bridging Clinical and Doctrinal Instruction, forthcoming in the Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law Policy.  Here's the abstract:

This article describes a proposed randomized control trial (RCT) involving individuals in financial distress, specifically, individuals sued on a credit card debt collection case by a debt buyer or creditor. The aim of the RCT is to evaluate the effectiveness of two interventions often proposed to help individuals in financial distress improve their financial health. We intend to test, inter alia, whether (1) an offer of legal representation in the debt collection case, (2) an incentive to undergo the same financial counseling required in bankruptcy, or (3) a combination of both treatments have an effect on the financial health of financially distressed consumers. Our primary outcome measure will be credit scores and reports, although we also aim to survey study participants about other outcomes such as changes in health, assets, and general well-being.

We describe in detail not just the methodology of the study, but also the mechanics of how we have gone about executing this complex field experiment so far. The objective in doing so is to demystify the process for scholars, legal aid lawyers, and clinical professors who have not had direct experience with empirical methods, and to encourage them to think about conducting RCT evaluations of their own programs. The article also describes three other goals we seek to advance through the project. The first is a deeper understanding of debt collection in the courts. Allegations of abuse abound about the industry generally and legal collections specifically, but to date, the evidence is largely anecdotal. We will be uniquely positioned to learn about whether the allegations are more than anecdotes. The second is increasing access to justice for unrepresented defendants in collection cases. Along with a team of dedicated law students, the study team is developing an attorney litigation manual and pro se materials, including court forms and scripts, for debt collection litigation. Before making the pro se materials available, they will be field tested with individuals in similar situations to those facing study participants. The third goal is developing an innovative pedagogical approach to legal instruction that combines doctrine and practice. A majority of the law students participating in the project are doing so in the context of a seminar which incorporates both doctrinal instruction about the consumer credit system and clinical experience.

We hope that this article provides our readers both with ideas for future research projects and with ideas about how to incorporate diverse goals in a single study design.


0 thoughts on “Debt Collection Study of Offer of Representation and Counseling

  1. anthony says:

    Debt Collectors back to their old bag of tricks. This time the attorney lied and took advantage of a woman who’s child was being seen at Riley Hospital for Children.
    Copy of a womans experience with Decatur Small Claims Court in Indianapolis, Indiana and Derek F. Johnson of Jacob, Hammerle, and Johnson Law Office.
    There needs to be a systems that forces attorneys and judges to be honest. As it stands right now, people in Marion County Small Claims Courts are being raped.
    Woman’s Story:
    “12/13/12 initial court hearing for unpaid medical bill $397.00. Did not know about the bill I had signed letter from a different Attorney (not Derek Johnson) that the hospital inadvertently did not inform him or client about the bill at that time. The hospital also admitted to the mistake. I met Johnson in a room outside the court room. I informed Johnson that my son was being seen at Riley Hospital and was scheduled to see an Oncologist and I just didn’t have any money. Told him I could pay the bill that was all when I got my tax check in Feb. Johnson gave me a paper and said just sign this. I asked the Attorney if he would dismiss the Judgment if I signed the paper. He asked me if I could pay by 2/9/13 $870. I said I would try as this is about the time I would get my tax check in Feb. Again, I asked him if he would dismiss the Judgment he said, “Yeah whatever, just sign the paper.” I signed the paper but asked the Attorney to put it in writing that he would dismiss the judgment if I paid by 2/9/13. He refused. I said, “It’s my right to get any deal in writing and get a copy of it.” He refused again. I said, “I want to see the Judge because you’re not doing something honest here.” He stormed out and went into the court room. I told the Judge about the deal he tried to make but the Judge wouldn’t listen. I told the Judge about my son and that I didn’t have the money except to pay the bill. I begged them both. Derek Johnson LIED to the Judge and said Johnson said he didn’t offer any deal or say he would dismiss anything. Then Derek Johnson said something to the Judge like “evidentiary/evidence hearing.” I said to the Judge and Derek Johnson I was trying to be honest that i owed the bill and Mr. Johnson was not. I said in open court I would pay once I got my tax ck Feb. Judge agreed. On 1/9/13, Derek Johnson filed for non-payment. Only 11 business days after the Judge gave me the Judgment and not enough time to get a tax check. He CHARGED me more fees. Total $999.”

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