Upright Law, a national bankruptcy service, is facing ethics and disciplinary inquiries from the Iowa Attorney Disciplinary Board. A law firm based in Chicago does business under the name of Upright Law and partners with lawyers in all fifty states, including Iowa. Upright promotes itself heavily on the internet. The complaints from Iowans to the disciplinary board said that when they contacted Upright Law they were connected with a non-lawyer at the Chicago firm. Those non-lawyers would collect fees, send fee agreements and then connect the consumer with an attorney in Iowa partnering with Upright. But in at least one case the non-lawyer staff member in Chicago gave legal advice only allowed to be provided by an attorney and the legal advice turned out to be incorrect. All of the Iowa consumers who filed complaints said they had requested refunds of fees after becoming frustrated with Upright Law, only to be met with delays and other obstacles to getting their money returned. The Attorney Disciplinary Board said the Upright Law staff, who it said work on commission, used “hard-sell” tactics on the Iowans to get them to pay fees. The Board also said Upright Law had an “F” rating from the Better Business Bureau for failure to respond to complaints.
Besides the disciplinary action being taken against the Iowa attorneys partnering with Upright Law, bankruptcy courts around the United States are taking their own stand against the national firm. Bankruptcy courts in Alabama and Virginia have already sanctioned Upright Law or suspended its ability to file cases. In Alabama the court said Upright mishandled bankruptcy cases, including allowing non-lawyers to engage in the unauthorized practice of law. The bankruptcy court in Virginia fined Upright and the Virginia attorneys partnering with Upright because of their practices. Bankruptcy trustees in other jurisdictions are also taking action to object to Upright’s heavy use of non-lawyers.
Iowa consumers looking for a bankruptcy attorney should be careful to retain someone with the experience and knowledge to successfully get them through the bankruptcy process.