blind item AboveTheLaw legal blog.jpgNo matter when it’s done, job hunting usually sucks balls. When done in the middle of the Great Recession, it feels like the balls are covered in tangled hair and pointy skin-piercing spikes. It’s painful and you have to be careful.

One disgruntled attorney recently emailed us about a company that he suspects is trying to take advantage of desperate job hunters. He calls it “a new type of scam preying on unemployed lawyers.”

He responded via an ad on Craigslist to an “assets management company” seeking IP attorneys for full-time or part-time contract work. We’ll call the company Pay To Work, LLC. In the ad, PTW says it’s looking for “entrepreneurial” attorneys to do intellectual property work. It says its clients include scientists, inventors, writers, artists, celebrities, universities, and multi-national corporations. That sounds pretty sweet!

But there are some big catches. First off, “partners” are supposed to pay $295/month for “administrative fees.” Second off, the company has no clients at the moment. It’s a start-up in the “set-up phase.” So if you sign up and start paying $300 a month, what exactly are you getting for your money?

There’s no guarantee in the contract that you will actually be provided with work in exchange for your administrative fee. We hear that prostitutes sometimes have to pay pimps to work their corners, but that doesn’t tend to be the way law firms work. Plus, on top of the over $3,000 per year in administrative fees, Pay To Work takes 20% of any work projects its “partners” get staffed on, or better yet, from the perspective of PTW, bring in.

We talked to PTW’s founder, a California attorney with 25 years of experience. “It’s not a referral service, it’s a collaborative venture,” he said. “We’re hoping our partner attorneys bring in projects.”

Okay, so you’ve got no clients, and are hoping that the attorneys that sign up and pay you $295/month will bring in the clients. So what’s the advantage here?

PTW is a “management services company” not a law firm. “So our partner attorneys can come up with ideas for possible legal services for companies,” he said. “Our company is not bound by the solicitation and advertising restrictions on lawyers. We can go after these companies and then hire our lawyers to do the work.”

Oh cool. That’s not shady at all.

After PTW’s founder put up his ads, he claims to have gotten a huge response, saying he talked to about 90 talented unemployed and underemployed attorneys on the phone. He also says he “may or may not” keep the administrative fee, depending on the response from the 30 or so attorneys that he has sent contracts out to. The company launches in a week or two. We took a look at one of the contracts. The start date is May 17, with a note that the administrative fee will be appropriately pro-rated.

PTW calls this an “innovative business model for attorneys to provide business services.” We call this a scheme we’d love to get a piece of. That is, if we were soulless and interested in taking advantage of people in dire straits.


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