After this blog was written, Marc Victor from Attorneys on Retainer contacted me. He felt that some of my criticism was unfair. He asked me to remove the blog, but I think it would be far more instructive to simply add to it. All of my additions…post phone call are in RED. I would be remiss if I did not tell you that Mr. Victor was extremely friendly and professional on the phone with me.
I don’t like writing these types of blogs.
I believe that the free market is an elegant force for creating the best possible products, services and innovations for the consumer. The “truth will out”…even if it takes a bit of time.
There is a pain point as market forces do work themselves out though. Reputable business can suffer at the hands of unscrupulous competitors, and the general public also can suffer losses. Depending on the product or the service….potentially catastrophic losses.
When the product or service is hyper technical, and outside the normal economic sphere of the consumer the potential for danger increases exponentially. Thus we rely first and foremost usually on casual recommendations from trusted sources. Secondarily, (and for some primarily) we look at the quality of the ad or YouTube video that caught our eye, or the novelty of the product.
I have fallen victim to this myself.
As I entered the world of big game hunting I was seduced by many different manufacturers. From guns, to clothing, to paraphernalia, I expended a tremendous amount of our families wealth on products that were well advertised, but ultimately proved worthless to my endeavor.
While we at the Artemis Defense Institute, (and Sandy and I personally) will freely endorse products or services that we have used and found valuable, we are loath to disparage publicly others that fall short of the mark. Part of this is because we are keenly aware that managing and growing a business is hard. While we strive for perfection, there are times where we fall short of our own expectations. Others that are struggling to make an honest living are in the same position, and while our personal experience with their business may have been less than ideal, there is the distinct possibility that we may have been an anomaly. There is no reason to call them out in the public square for their failings. We can be just as effective in remaining silent as too their endeavors and instead highlight their competitors if we feel that is justified.
This is one of the times where I violate that principle.
A few months back I started seeing some Youtube videos pop up from two attorneys in Arizona that billed themselves as the “Freedom Law Group” and were selling a service called “Attorneys on Retainer.”
Their basic message was that CCW Insurance (or as I prefer to call it “self defense insurance”) was essentially worthless. They pontificated that “If you are charged with a crime the insurance company will drop you! Its in the contract!” (Mr. Victor has said that this is not what he said….he told me that he has only stated that they will drop you if you have been convicted of a crime. So…I went to his website, where his original video is still hosted: https://attorneysonretainer.us/resources/uscca-self-defense-insurance-policy-review/ at 33 seconds into the video he states that “they don’t cover crimes if you are charged.” So….there is that. ) They seemed to target USCCA they also were more than happy to make the same claims about CCW Safe, Armed Citizens Legal Network and the rest of the cottage industry that makes up the self defense insurance market.
Now, first….a disclaimer:
I make numerous Youtube videos for USCCA. I don’t get compensated for them. I do it for free. I do it for two very important reasons:
- They let me. They have a substantially larger Youtube following than I do on the Artemis Youtube Channel, and it gives me a national (if not international) forum for pontificating on Second Amendment jurisprudence.
- They have, over the years paid a boat load of money to me in the form of bills for defending USCCA members. In a sense, they fulfilled their end of the bargain that their clients made, and they asked me to do the videos. We have a good relationship and I want to foster that relationship.
That second part….the fact that they have paid my bill in over twenty five use of force criminal defense cases is going to be an important part to this discussion.
When the Attorneys on Retainer guys started making their claims I was amused, but also confused. What exactly were they selling? After all…..insurance covers bills, a retainer agreement with an attorney is not an insurance policy, it is just a promise to represent. They still get to bill you. It seemed odd that they were just trying to get a client to put money into their firm on a retainer agreement. Especially since these two attorneys seemed to be only licensed to practice in Arizona and Hawaii, (that cannot be completely confirmed, but at the time of their first video they appeared to suggest that).
Then one of our Artemis clients contacted me and asked me what I thought about them. They were considering going with them and dropping USCCA.
I asked him why.
He said that he was concerned that if he ever was involved in a defensive shooting he would be dropped by USCCA. This “Attorneys on Retainer” seemed like a better deal.
He also told me that he was in communication with them and had a copy of their agreement. This intrigued me so I asked if he could forward a copy of it to me.
It made me upset.
They have made numerous claims that the insurance carrier WILL drop you if you get charged with a crime. (Incidentally, in every single one of my cases where the client was insured by USCCA they were never dropped upon charging. More importantly, these cases have run the gambit of costs from ten thousand dollars on the low end to well into six figures, and not one time has USCCA….or more specifically United Casualty and Fire…the ones who actually provide the insurance, EVER balked, questioned, or even intimated that funding would not be forthcoming. Every bill I have ever presented to them has been paid in full within forty eight hours.)
The Attorneys on Retainer agreement does state up front that they will not “drop you” for simply being charged with a crime. But then they go on to say that they can drop you for any other reason. That is a big window they have created for themselves. One that many non lawyers may not recognize. That is my chief concern here: They are selling to non-lawyers, and by definition their customers or clients may not be fully informed as to what they are, or are not actually getting.
They have stated that for seventy five bucks (my mistake…it is evidentially 25 bucks) a month they are now your attorneys and are obligated to represent you. Their agreement seems to suggest that their legal bills will not exceed that seventy five dollar (25) a month threshold. Yet they are not a licensed insurance company. Externalities do not appear to be covered, and externalities become very expensive.
For instance: In one of my cases our private investigation team ended up costing USCCA almost thirty thousand dollars.
There is nothing to suggest in the agreement with Attorneys on Retainer that they are going to reach into their own pocket and pay an investigator. The client will be responsible for that. They do mention that they will petition the court for investigator fees….but that in and of itself is problematic. First it requires a court. With USCCA when an incident (important distinction….not arrest for a potential crime…just an incident) has occurred we immediately begin a counter investigation, often while the the scene is still being investigated by the police. That counter investigation has proved invaluable in preventing a case from being filed by the DA in the first place. Our legal fees for being on scene as well as our investigator(s) are completely covered by USCCA. With Attorneys on Retainer that would simply not happen. They would have to wait for criminal charges to be filed and an arraignment set before they could even begin the process of begging the court for financial resources.
Mr. Victor assured me that this analysis was inaccurate. They will absolutely cover externalities like PI’s and experts on their own dime. Bail is a little more tricky, as it triggers professional conduct rules, but without going into details the has assured me that bail is covered as well.
Then there is the problem of geography.
Recently they have stated that they can represent clients in all fifty states. This is a troubling statement in the extreme.
Yes. There is a method for a licensed attorney in one state to make appearances and provide legal services in a state they are not licensed to practice in. It is called appearing Pro hac vice. They need to hire local counsel to be there with them at all court appearances and the judge must allow it. As a general rule this usually does happen without a problem, but there is an associated cost. If foreign counsel were to contact me and ask me to be chief counsel for one of their cases and allow them to appear under me pro hac vice, I would most certainly agree…..its easy money. All I have to do is literally sit there, and they do all the work. Of course my time is also being taken up and we all bill (sometimes at a discounted rate, sometimes not) for our time in court. This alone can end up cost several thousands of dollars. Again….there is nothing in the agreement with Attorneys on Retainer to suggest that they will absorb these fees through their seventy five dollar a month program. It appears that the client will bear these costs.
Mr. Victor did not really dispute this, as much as to suggest that my concerns are not operationally relevant. He has handled multiple cases Pro Hac Vice, and referenced a current case in Florida.
Lastly, there is the civil side. This is perhaps the most noxious.
They absolutely state that they will represent the client in civil litigation as per the agreement. They are silent when it comes to damages.
When you are covered by insurance, (car insurance, homeowners insurance, business insurance, and yes…self defense insurance) and a civil claim is filed against you essentially the insurance company takes over as the defendant. They are the ones that ultimately make a decision whether it is cheaper to run the risk of litigation or pay what is often referred to as nuisance settlement. (Essentially they are making an economic calculus that a full throated defense at trial is going to cost, say 50K, but the plaintiff is will to accept a settlement of 10K right now. Even though they feel they would win the civil case, it will be cheaper to pay the nuisance settlement than go through the costs of a trial.)
If all you have is an attorney representing you they will bill you at the negotiated retainer rate, but they will not pay your damages, or your settlement for you.
Mr. Victor agreed that this part of my analysis was correct. They will not pay civil damages.
When SB2 and the “sensitive locations” was in play Attorneys on Retainer made a major social media push suggesting that this now created denial of coverage by USCCA, CCW Safe, et al. The insurance companies themselves pushed back, and publicly stated that that assessment was one hundred percent false.
Yet, I have seen several people on social media state that they have canceled their CCW insurance and have now gone with Attorneys on Retainer.
Imagine owning a home. An attorney sees you at a cocktail party and tells you that you are rube for paying for homeowners insurance. You should cancel your insurance and just put him on retainer. If your home ever burns down then he will represent you.
Well….yeah…thanks…but who is going to pay for my home to be replaced?
Mr. Victor seems like a nice man, and is clearly passionate about what he is doing. He informed me that he hopes that money that he is able to raise is able to also help his non profit Live and Let live. (You can view that website at liveandletlive.org). He also let me know that he has been defending clients in both state and federal court for over thirty years. He is pleasant, affable, and generous with his time. In the final analysis I will re-state what I have been stating for the last ten years…..you need “something”. If you feel comfortable with AOR, or USCCA, or CCW Safe, et al then pull the trigger and sign up. Just make sure you are an informed consumer.