It took almost nine years of practice but I finally did it. Last week, I attended a national legal conference. Deep in the heart of Texas (San Antonio, to be exact), a large group of consumer advocates met for the annual Consumer Rights Litigation Conference. Attending a conference in a substantive area of law in which you are establishing or expanding your practice is a valuable experience and one that I would recommend to newer attorneys.

The conference provided opportunities to take introductory and deep-dive courses relating to specific causes of action. There also were discussions of practical matters, such as client concerns and settlement agreements. There is a lively debate amongst members of the bar regarding the inclusion of confidentiality provisions in settlement agreements. On one hand, confidentiality allows corporate wrongdoers to keep their bad deeds under wraps, hiding from public scrutiny the magnitude of the transgressions. Yet, for an individual client, their interests predominantly may be in making themselves whole and moving on with their life – confidentiality may or may not be important to them.

Attending the conference also gave me a charge by talking with successful private practitioners, public interest attorneys engaged in frontline battles for the little guy and top-notch policy wonks. While my glass tends to be half-full, it was inspiring to hear from deeply-committed innovators and activists. So, with a spring in my step, I am very glad to be back in Maryland, my Maryland.

One interesting tidbit I learned during a course on theTelephone Consumer Protection Act, was the Federal Communications Commission had published data on consumer complaints relating to phone, internet, television and radio communications and broadcasts. Curious, I took a look at the data.

Of particular interest to me was the breakdown of consumer complaints by state. Since Dec. 29, 2014, Maryland has logged 11,014 consumer complaints with the FCC. Only seven states’ residents filed more complaints. Given our relatively small population count (just under 6 million people), Maryland has the distinction of having made the most consumer complaints on a per capita basis.

Now, a glib response might be the number of complaints are not necessarily correlated to the frequency of consumer violations. I would argue that 11,014 complaints in under eleven months is problematic and at least indicative of a disconnect between the wishes of consumers and the businesses that solicit them or provide telecommunication services to them. It’s been said the U.S. economy is all about consumers. Perhaps during Maryland’s current rush to be “Open for Business,” we should remind ourselves to be ever vigilant to protect those who consume the goods and services that stoke the fire of the economy.

 

First published on November 18, 2015 at http://thedailyrecord.com/2015/11/18/you-gotta-fight-for-your-consumer-rights/