An Idaho plaintiff’s attorney who specialized in filing suits against collection agencies has agreed to voluntarily give up his law license rather than face a disciplinary hearing before the state bar, admitting he took “shortcuts” when representing his clients, according to a published report.
Ryan Ballard had been a member of the Idaho State Bar for seven years. In a statement, Ballard admitted his “missteps” but also blamed “powerful enemies” who “succeeded” in preventing him “from being an impediment to their business.”
At least one of the enemies referenced by Ballard appears to be Bryan Smith, who has ownership stakes in both Medical Recovery Services, an Idaho Falls debt collection company, and its representing law firm, Smith, Driscoll & Associates, and who filed a grievance against Ballard.
Ballard sued Medical Recovery Services back in 2014, after soliciting individuals who were previously sued by the collection agency. Eventually, Ballard’s case against the agency was dismissed, with Ballard being forced to pay the defendant’s attorney fees, but not before Smith filed a countersuit against Ballard, which was settled for $250,000, according to the report, which cited court documents as the source for its claim.
During the Idaho State Bar’s investigation, 17 of the 23 individuals who were represented by Ballard said they did not authorize him to file a lawsuit on their behalf. He was also accused of trying to settle the case without notifying his clients or receiving their authorization to do so.
In a statement, Ballard said:
“In seven years of practicing law, I was able to help more than 1,000 Idahoans resolve collection lawsuits brought against them. I also represented approximately 70 people in lawsuits against debt collectors for alleged abusive collection efforts and practices.
Unfortunately, in my zeal to help as many people as I could, I took some shortcuts, including not always explaining all possible outcomes and downsides of their case, not always making sure our fee arrangements were in writing (which were almost always on a fee-shifting basis where I worked for free unless I won the case for the client and then I would get paid by the other party), and not always regularly updating clients about their case. Notably, it was not my clients that initially complained to the Idaho State Bar about my missteps.
For many years, debt collectors in Idaho have had free rein to pursue debtors in any manner they saw fit, even if they were arguably violating collection laws. By attempting to shine a light on some of these practices, I made powerful enemies which have made it their mission to prevent me from being an impediment to their business. Those enemies have succeeded. I regret that I will no longer be able to provide a valuable service to the community as there are very few attorneys in the state (if any, now) willing to represent consumers who cannot afford to pay an hourly rate.”
Smith provided the following statement:
“Ryan Ballard filed over two dozen lawsuits against my law firm, Smith, Driscoll & Associates, PLLC, and against Medical Recovery Services, LLC,” Smith said in a statement to EastIdahoNews.com.
The court agreed that we had done nothing wrong. And what we said then continues to be true today that Smith, Driscoll & Associates and Medical Recovery Services follow the laws applicable to debt collection. The loss of a law license is an appropriate step to discourage unethical conduct, and we are always willing to work with the Idaho State Bar, like we did here, to make sure lawyers are held to account. We are also pleased that the Idaho State Bar investigated the matter thoroughly and that we are now totally vindicated from the claims that Mr. Ballard made against us.”