Sep. 1, 2017 – Consumers can be easy targets for scammers and sharks. But lawyers can help protect them.
The September Wisconsin Lawyer, hitting mailboxes soon, is a special focus issue that highlights consumer protection in Wisconsin, how lawyers can help (and get paid), and the legal protections available to you and your clients.
The cover story, by writer Dianne Molvig, notes that a substantial number of Wisconsin residents annually contact the state with complaints about negative consumer experiences. Many of those complaints relate to the same types of issues.
In “Top Consumer Complaints … And What Agency Watchdogs Say You Can Do About Them,” the state’s top agency watchdogs explain the consumer protection apparatus, identify common types of complaints, and suggest best practices for consumers to work out disagreements, either on their own or with the aid of a state agency.
The cover story sets the stage for other articles on consumer protection, including feature stories on how to navigate the system and privately enforce the laws.
In “Navigating Wisconsin’s Consumer Protection System,” Madison attorney John Greene, former director of the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Unit, looks into the evolution of Wisconsin’s consumer protection laws, discusses key consumer protection statutes, and describes remedies for violations of those laws.
Greene, now in private practice, navigates the allocation of consumer protection responsibilities among Wisconsin agencies and provides a chart of the agencies and their areas of responsibility.
In “How to Privately Enforce Consumer Laws,” Mary Fons, a consumer lawyer in Stoughton, describes consumer law practice, identifies many of the federal and state consumer protection laws, and explains how lawyers can obtain attorney fees for the consumer based on the fee-shifting provisions in consumer protection statutes.
Fons doesn’t stop with her feature article. In “Timeshare Sales: A Consumer Protection Perspective,” she introduces timeshares, typical sales presentations, and statutory remedies available to Wisconsin lawyers to obtain relief for defrauded consumers.
Consumer Protection Columns and Insights
Solutions: In “Fair Debt Collection: The Search for the Least Sophisticated Consumer,” Brookfield attorney Brandon Bowlin says lawyers should understand the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to help business clients have policies in place for legal debt-collection practices.
Managing Risk: In “Caution: Consumer Protection Law Is Complex,” Tom Watson, an attorney with Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual Insurance Co., warns this area of law is complex and detailed, and thus not for dabblers.
Final Thought: In “After the Money’s Gone – It’s Too Late,” attorney Frank Sullivan, chief director of the Consumer Protection and Antitrust Unit of the Wisconsin Department of Justice, says the most effective consumer protection consists of preventing people from being fleeced in the first place.
Other Columns: Promoting Good Government, Generating New Clients, Protecting Digital Data, Adapting Software for Legal Productivity
● President’s Message: In “Lawyers Promoting Good Government,” Paul Swanson urges lawyers to use their unique training and skills to promote good government by political leaders and better understanding by the public.
● Your State Bar: In “Darkness on a Sunny Day,” Larry Martin says 9/11 inspired him to treat every encounter as an opportunity to recognize what’s really important in life.
● Marketing: In “Find the Riches in the Niches: Generating New PI Clients,” Larry Bodine says having a niche practice makes it easy for lawyers to spell out their unique selling proposition, an essential element in successful marketing.
● Ethics: In “Guarding Clients’ Digital Information,” Dean Dietrich answers the question, “Am I responsible for clients’ information if my computer is hacked?”
● Technology: In “Adapt Non-law Software for Legal Productivity,” Tison Rhine looks at software you might not have considered for use in your law practice.
Check out the September Wisconsin Lawyer