Creditors’ Rights
Our office specializes in the area of law known as creditors’ rights or debt collection. Creditors’ rights is the term used by the legal profession to describe the area of law that facilitates the collection of debt for creditors. We handle legal collections for creditors in compliance with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and enforce creditors’ rights to recover their money. Frederick L. Conrad, Jr. has been certified as a specialist in the field of creditors’ rights by the Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization and the Commercial Law League of America since 1997. Our office has been open since 1998 and our employees have collectively worked in the area of debt collection for over thirty years.

Services
We handle collections through the legal process. Frequently, creditors are unable to collect through their own efforts, or by using collection agencies, and this is where our office can be helpful. Sometimes a demand letter from an attorney is enough to convince a recalcitrant debtor that the creditor is serious about collecting a debt, but if this letter fails we are able to employ a variety of legal methods to secure the debt. Our office is a law office. It is not a collection agency. Not that we lack respect for collection agencies, we have a great deal of respect for their efforts and business model. However, the creditor, and frequently at least one collection agency, have already worked most of the files that come to us. If the debtor will not attempt to work with the original creditor with whom they did business and will not respond to the considerable talents and efforts of the collection agencies that place files with us, we do not expect the debtor will respond to letters or phone calls. Therefore, the service we provide is the collection of debts through the legal system.

Filing suits, obtaining judgments, and subpoenaing debtors and their financial records, executing on assets, and setting up payments on judgments are some of the procedures used by our office to help our clients obtain their money and protect their rights. Post judgment debtor exams, liens on property, wage garnishments, and bank levies are all tools at our disposal for collecting our clients’ judgments. We do send out an initial letter giving the required FDCPA notices (which also serves to catch some bad address information). We do send some notice letters to debtors when we take certain actions or have payment arrangements. But we do not use the dunning procedures of collection agencies (as those have usually been tried and failed).

Procedure
At the point that an agreement is reached regarding representation on an account or accounts, a contract will be created setting forth the fee basis and services to be rendered.

On placed files, credit applications, contracts, invoices, and other indices of the contract between the creditor and the debtor are desired. A demand is sent to the debtor to comply with the FDCPA requirements on initial communications. While commercial accounts do not have to be collected following the FDCPA regulations, we do so on all accounts so that there is not a mistake in evaluating whether an account is commercial or retail.

Should the debtor prove unwilling to respond and pay the debt, we tender a sworn affidavit of account, request court costs, and prepare suit for filing. We appear at court to request judgment and to discuss the situation with the debtor should they appear. If no arrangements are reached with the debtor, we proceed with other avenues for collecting the judgment; executions on bank accounts, wages, or property, judgment liens, asset discovery, and so forth.

Common Time Periods Experienced During the Collection Procedure
From the time of placement and the sending of the FDCPA letter, a month or more usually passes while awaiting the costs to file suit. During this period, we prepare and submit a sworn affidavit of account for the creditor to review and execute if it is correct. We use this period to make any necessary corrections to the affidavit and to conduct research on the debtor. Most of the time a judgment can be obtained by using the affidavit without the need of a witness. The court will take two to four weeks to issue the warrant, which will take two to four weeks for the sheriff’s office to serve, if it is served the first time (it is not uncommon to have to issue an alias or two). The case is, therefore, usually set for more than three months after the initial placement (even with things moving smoothly). The defendant (debtor) frequently will request a reset from the first hearing, usually four to six weeks. Once judgment goes down, it becomes final in 30 days (10 days in General Sessions (small claims)). An execution is served within 30 days and if it collects money, the court will usually disburse that money about one month from the time of attachment. If everything goes smoothly and the execution hits, we might have the first money six months after placement. However, in real life, things do not always go smoothly. The debtor may have left his job. He may have moved. The judge might get sick and cancel court. The list is endless. Yes, some debtors will finally cooperate when they are served with the civil warrant, but they are the exception, not the rule. On large amounts the process through the higher courts can be even slower.

Coverage Area
We handle both retail and commercial debt collection on debtors of all backgrounds. Our service area contains all the counties of east Tennessee other than Johnson County, going as far west as Cumberland County. See our Courts and Legal Resources page for a comprehensive list of the included counties.

Payment Options
In addition to upfront court costs that vary by file and county, our office offers two standard payment options. A client may choose to pay by the hour or upon a contingent fee basis. Hourly billing entails the periodic sending of a bill containing the work employed on a client’s accounts and a charge based on the amount of time spent performing services on those accounts. Contingent fee payments are determined as a percentage of the debt collected by our office. The two methods offer different advantages, which we would be glad to discuss with you.