When people call an attorney, they don’t think of themselves as “a case”, or a “fact-pattern”, or a potential client. I don’t think of clients that way. I want to hear their story.
People call when they need help with a problem. That problem is not just an isolated situation, though. Everyone has a story. Every day, I hear people’s stories. Being behind in paying your bills didn’t happen overnight. And, everyone I talk to has said that they really want to be able to catch up, and pay their bills. For many years, they have tried to cut expenses, cash retirement plans, earn more money to pay their debts. But, they have reached a point where they no longer can do it.
Every person has a story to tell about how they got to that point. What happened? They used to have the best credit. They used to be able to afford whatever they wanted. They used to not have to worry about money.
Some stories sound like this: “ I am a single mother. I was doing great until I split up with my boyfriend. We were sharing all of the expenses, and he left. Now, he won’t help with the kids, and I’m here working 2 jobs just to support myself and the kids. I used my credit cards to make ends meet. When, after I paid the rent, I had to use them to buy groceries. I used the credit cards to buy school supplies. I have been trying just to pay the minimum payments, and even that is too hard. And, even if I just pay the minimum payments, I’ll never be out of debt.”
Here’s another story: “We are a family of 4, we were doing great, and I’m the father. I’m in construction, and my wife is at home with the kids. I got many fewer jobs to do, and my hours were cut. Until now, I was able to pay for everything. We had some small credit card debt before, but I had to depend on the credit cards more and more, and then I couldn’t make the payments. And, with less money coming in, I couldn’t pay the mortgage every month. So we fell behind with everything. I just want to be able to put food on the table every night, and it is harder and harder. We just got foreclosure papers. What can we do to survive?”
Or it could go like this: “ We were doing great until I got sick. I had to go to the hospital, and couldn’t work. I lost hours on my job, and they didn’t like the fact that I wasn’t at work. I lost my job. Now, I have huge medical bills. I had insurance but the deductibles and co-pays I had to pay are huge, and I can’t afford to pay them. And now, I can’t even afford to keep my medical insurance. “
Or: “ I tried to start my own business. I used whatever savings I had to live on, and to start the business. The business didn’t take off like I thought it would. I had to use credit cards to survive. I can’t make even the minimum payments. Now I’m being sued. Now I don’t know what to do.”
Or this: “I got out of college 2 years ago. I had to use credit cards during college a bit, to live on. But I figured that I’d be able to pay those off once I got a job. And, I have student loans. Now, I’m working, but my job doesn’t pay enough for me to be able to make payments on everything, plus pay rent, and food, etc. I am paying the minimum payments on my credit cards, but can’t pay on my student loans. One loan company already sued me. What can I do?”
What about this: “I was doing well until my wife and I split up. We shared all of the expenses and were both working. We are in the middle of an expensive divorce, because we had to figure out where the kids were going to be, who was going to pay for what bills, and everything. We had credit card debt, in both of our names, and have car and house payments, and are trying to divide everything up. What can we do?”
These stories are based on only some of the many stories I’ve heard over the years. And each story is important. Being an attorney means more than just trying to come up with solutions to clients’ problems. It means listening to the clients’ stories, and figuring out where to go next. It means coming up with solutions that help people live a better lives, and help them.
Money problems don’t happen in isolation. There is a story behind the problems, and that’s very personal. As a lawyer, it is important to listen, to hear the story and help the person behind the story. Only then can I begin to help you.
I want to hear your story; what happened before the problems started, what got you to where you are now. What you see is what you get in an attorney. Take a look at my reviews online at Avvo.com and see for yourself.
Daniel J. Winter
Offices in Chicago, Gurnee, Oak Lawn, and Skokie, Illinois