Growing Up Military

Every child is shaped by the profession that their parents choose.  For me, it was growing up with a father in the U.S. Air Force.

We lived near Washington DC for a few years when my father was stationed at the Pentagon.

We lived near Washington DC for a few years when my father was stationed at the Pentagon.

I was born in Omaha, Nebraska when my father was stationed at Offutt Air Force Base.  My sister Karla was born there about two years later.  We moved often, with our next move to Minot, North Dakota.  That is where my father flew B-52 bombers as an instructor pilot and aircraft commander in support of America’s “nuclear triad strategy.”  Earlier in his career, he flew O-2A spotter planes in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. 

My father grew up in Louisiana after my grandfather returned from World War II.  My father has ten siblings, and life was not easy for them growing up.  My grandfather worked on oil rigs and sometimes moved the family to follow work.  This caused stress on the family, and it became important to my father that he find and stay in a stable job.  He volunteered for the military and went to Vietnam.  He stayed in the service for 30 years and retired honorably.

My mother was central to my sister and me growing up...

Dad worked a lot.  Discipline was important to him.  At home, this meant my sister and I were expected to behave ourselves.  And for the most part, we did!  Our father also enjoyed teaching us.  I remember him always looking for some interesting fact to tell us.  He also loved to challenge our assumptions, which developed our thinking skills.  Those skills have served me well as an attorney.

Both my parents were strong figures.  However, they were strong in different ways.  My father focused on the hard life skills, while our mother balanced out the softer side.  She was gracious, caring, and had a strong moral compass.    My mother was central to my sister and me growing up, and was certainly the glue that kept everything together. 

My mother grew up in Connecticut, where my grandfather owned a small men's clothing store.  It was called John Zemo’s, and is still in operation today by one of my uncles.  It is the oldest men’s clothing store (haberdashery) in the state, located in Stamford.  My mom is the second oldest of eight children.  She grew up with greater resources, but had many responsibilities.  She learned different lessons that would serve her and our family well.

My mother and father were one unit when it came to the military.  My father wore the uniform, but my mother worked as a volunteer.  She worked taking care of my sister and me as we moved from one city to another. In addition to raising my sister and me, she loved being involved with the volunteer side of the military.  She loved social events, meeting people, and learning about others.  She is proud of the work she did volunteering, organizing, and hosting events.  Her work supported military families, and I know the service was better for having her involved.  

My parents frequently attended military events.  This photo was taken when we lived in Germany.

My parents frequently attended military events.  This photo was taken when we lived in Germany.

My mother was a key force in my sister and my lives.  Our mother mostly raised us, watched over us, and showered us with love.  She always had our best interest at heart and worked hard to ensure each move was as easy as possible on us.  She also taught us the importance of good manners, kindness, and generosity.   Both my parents were smart with money, and we lived a middle class life. 


 
 

My First Memories

My earliest childhood memories are from the age of seven.  At that time, we lived in Woodbridge, VA.  My father was stationed at the Pentagon where he was assigned to staff work after years of flying as a pilot.  

In Virginia, I had many great friends on the block.  However, I remember just a few things about those young years.  I remember playing hide and seek with friends, creating forts out of things around us, and digging a hole in the backyard.  The hole was so deep I thought lava from the center of the earth was going to seep up into it (it was probably 20 inches deep).  I remember a kid across the street with the same birthday as me (May 5), and how the neighborhood kids would play hide-and-seek after dark in the summer.  My father, ever the teacher, taught me some jungle survival tips to avoid being found during hide-and-seek.  I remember that the secret is to never look them in the eyes! 

I also remember raking leaves in the fall and jumping in them, and how fall was my favorite season.  I do not remember too much about school, but I remember when our time in Virginia was up and we needed to move on.

 

 
 

Moving Overseas

My family’s next stop was Germany.  I found out later that this move was a little unusual for someone  on my father’s career path.  With his “staff time” at the Pentagon, his next job would have been as a B-52 squadron commander at an Air Force base.  That job would have put him on a career path to general.  However, a position opened in Europe where he would support the Supreme Allied Commander.  It was a challenging job, but taking it would sacrifice a proven career path to a general officer. My father and mother decided that moving to Europe would be better for the family, so we moved to Germany and lived there for three years.  I think all of us would agree today that this was the wisest move my parents could have made.

Germany with my good friend Luke, who I have not been able to track down since.  Check out the the Commodore 4 in the background!

Germany with my good friend Luke, who I have not been able to track down since.  Check out the the Commodore 4 in the background!

We moved to Germany in the mid-1980s when I was half-way through the second grade.  The Berlin wall had not yet fallen, making our stay historically interesting today.  We lived in Stuttgart on an Army base called Patch Barracks.  I recall there were three U.S. bases near each other at the time: Patch, Robinson, and Kelly.  Each one was a bit different, and sometimes travel between them was necessary for food and shopping.  Living on a military base meant that I went to school at an English-speaking school with other kids whose parents were in the military.  We studied German in school, but not enough for me to retain it years later.  My dad worked on base while my mother became involved with the military social scene.

I loved my time at Patch Barracks and had some amazing friendships.  I had a broad array of terrific and diverse friends.  Kids were always coming and going due to the military life, so it was a bit easier than usual to make friends.  Every family's tour of duty at Patch was a little different, so circles of friends were always changing. 

I remember a football field near my house and having to walk to school.  The fastest course to school was directly through that field.  When it snowed in the winter, all the kids would build gigantic snowmen with the help of the teenagers.  In the summer, we would pick apples from a nearby wild orchard and sell them in front of our building.  I suppose that was the first time I owned a business!

We traveled a lot, too.  My mother planned our trips.  She would research countries, cities and sites to visit.  She made sure our trips were educational, cultural, and interesting.   We drove everywhere we visited around Europe, which meant hours in the car – not an exciting thing for a child.  We took pictures upon pictures with the promise from my parents that someday we would "thank us for it.”  Of course, today I will admit the pictures are very cool. 

Taken when we visited East Germany before the wall came down.  This is Check Point Charlie, an entrance to old East Berlin. (Double exposed photo)

Taken when we visited East Germany before the wall came down.  This is Check Point Charlie, an entrance to old East Berlin. (Double exposed photo)

Karla, mom, and me at the Berlin Wall train entrance.  It was one of the few ways to enter and leave East Berlin (Germany) before the wall came down.  On the other side of this wall were guards with rifles overseeing "no man's land," which prevented people on the soviet side from leaving.

Karla, mom, and me at the Berlin Wall train entrance.  It was one of the few ways to enter and leave East Berlin (Germany) before the wall came down.  On the other side of this wall were guards with rifles overseeing "no man's land," which prevented people on the soviet side from leaving.

One of my main memories of Europe was going through Check Point Charlie to visit East Germany, before the wall came down.  I remember it because I thought it was odd that my father had to travel in his uniform.  I was told it was to avoid him being arrested as a spy, and I wonder today if we were followed around when we were there visiting.  I also remember looking around the wall into no-mans-land.  I remember seeing armed guards in their towers ready to shoot anyone trying to escape.  It seemed bizarre as a kid, and is a bit sad to think about today too.  Someday I hope to visit Europe again.  I would spend more time appreciating the history, architecture, and art.  Overall, it was a wonderful place to live and a bright spot for me growing up.

 

 
 

A Hard Move

We moved back to the states after three years at Patch Barracks.  Moving away from my friends hurt a lot, and the only time I remember of all the moves when I cried before a move.  I was not one to ask why because I already knew the answer.   I was also not one to throw a fit because it would not change anything.  However, I remember being genuinely sad.  At 10 years old, moving away from everything you know is hard.

Moving around is one of the most difficult parts of growing up in a military family.  Being moved from environments you know and love is difficult.  I am not sure if people realize the challenges faced by military families.   They can be significant.  We lived in eight cities before I graduated high school.

We lived in the town for half my middle school years, and I was severely bullied.  At that age, I did not understand why kids picked on me, but I had to figure out how to cope with it.

We moved to Ohio from Germany in 1989, right before the wall came down.  We ended up in a small Air Force base in a community miles from Columbus.  There were a few thousand people that worked on that small base, with a very small handful of military service members.  There were very few families who were transitioning.  This meant they were already established circles of friends when I arrived.  It was hard for me to make friends there.  We lived in the town for half my middle school years, and I was severely bullied.  At that age, I did not understand why kids picked on me, but I had to figure out how to cope with it. 

I am a lawyer who litigates every case to the Supreme Court if necessary.  It is my way of dealing with bullies.  I sink my teeth in and do not let go.  No one is going to push my clients around!  But as a child, it is a different story.  I was a skinny kid who thought his way through problems.  For me, bulling meant finding some way of understanding the other kids who were not nice.  I had to understand them.  It is a hard (and a bit unfortunate) way of dealing with that kind of experience, but I learned a lot.  I also grew up fast.  I learned that everyone has insecurities, and that being accepted by others is important to each of us.  People are more complex than we think.  My devotion today towards helping others is a direct result of being bullied as a kid – more than any other experience.


 

A New Start

We moved one final time to close out my father’s career.  That move brought us to Wright Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB).  We moved near Dayton to a town called Centerville, where I had a new start.  It was seventh grade and I was probably a bit awkward, but I was very thankful for the relationships I made.  I learned more by watching others.  I tried to figure out how things worked before stepping forward.  Doing that usually resulted in better decision making.  I also began to better understand what causes people to tick.

The move from middle school to high school was a better experience for me.  I dated the same girl on and off through high school before going our separate ways at graduation.  I also I had a solid small group of friends.  I remember playing Euchre during lunch with a group of guys that could number over a dozen.  I would love to play cards more often today, but do not have the opportunity!

My junior and senior years of high school were dedicated to running a business.  I was in a half-day vocational program.  I loved the program and was primarily responsible for sales and marketing.  We sold tie-dye tee-shirts and had a helium balloon delivery service.  We also made woven chairs for team events, and competed against other schools with similar programs.  I excelled and won multiple awards through the Junior Achievement program.  I found a calling in running that business that followed me into law years later.

My first job was delivering papers at 13 years old.  I would deliver papers on my bike, or my parents would drive me around, for the five o’clock morning delivery.   I worked for McDonald's part time at 15 years old.  I worked for Kroger in high school, Frisch’s Big Boy, and then a financial brokerage firm.  I enjoy finding things to do with my time, and working has always seemed like a good thing to keep me busy. 

This move was my sister’s first big move away from established friends (5th grade), but she seemed to take it in stride.  Her personality type is to remain calm even as life throws her twists and turns.  She approaches each day with a positive outlook, and is a saver and planner.  She is two and a half years younger than me, and because of birthdays, she is three school years behind.  This means we had different circles of friends growing up.  We only shared a year of elementary and a year of high school together in the same building.  She also lives in Columbus, and we still see each other regularly.

I left the Dayton area after graduating high school in 1997 to attend The Ohio State University.  My mother, sister, and father eventually followed to Columbus, where we all live today.


 

College Years

As I recall, I only applied to The Ohio State University (OSU).  Thankfully, OSU accepted me!  My first plan was to go to business school.  However, I found by my junior year that my path would lead me into economics.  I enjoyed the subject and excelled early in the courses.  I also thoroughly enjoyed Art History.  With economics, I learned about business and money, but with Art History I learned about how people see the world.  I love Art History and even returned to college after law school so that I could take another course.  These two subjects offer a balance between hard numbers and soft contemplation.  I think this is important.  We need to earn a living, but also realize there is more to life.

My natural tendency is to view hard life lessons as positive. 

 

My Fight Against eminent Domain

After spending a year in college, I started looking at the world around me and felt uneasy with some of the things I saw.  I was concerned with the University’s plans to take a large area of land by eminent domain.  That is the process of government taking private land for public use.  While the University’s plans would make campus look a little nicer, I was against taking the land in order to build a shopping mall.   I did not think it was a proper use of governmental power (and still do not).

I started a petition to save one of the local buildings.  A number of people volunteered to help collect signatures, and we ended up with over 2,000.  That effort provided students and local businesses a greater seat at the table.  The remaining land owners eventually sold their property, but it was important to me that they could do so on fairer terms.

That experience led me into student government.  There, I began thinking even more about public service.  I ran for president of the student body at OSU during my junior year, and lost narrowly.  Despite that hard-fought race, I learned a tremendous amount about people.  I also saw the lows of political gamesmanship.  The race caused me to lose my youthful naivety about the world, and gain some more perspective.

Like most of life, whether an event is positive or negative is a matter of how we view it.  My natural tendency is to view hard life lessons as positive.  Losses can still hurt, and sometimes a lot.  But if we dwell on those things too long, we do not move forward.  I believe we have to learn, grow, and press on.  I must view my life lessons as opportunities to grow.


 

Taking a Detour

I have always had a strong sense that I need to do as much as I can for others in the short time I am on this planet.  During my college years, this meant fighting against eminent domain and running for student government.  However, it meant that opportunities could lie in the business world too.  Since I enjoyed running a business in high school, it was natural for me to look at starting a new business during college. 

Easter brunch, 2000 with dad and mom.  I was just venturing out on my own, and was about to start a business.

Easter brunch, 2000 with dad and mom.  I was just venturing out on my own, and was about to start a business.

I explored a few ideas while in college before an old mentor approached me about a business he had bought.  After helping with his business, I realized there was an opportunity to start my own.  I was excited about the prospect of supporting his business.  I liked to think about the potential benefits it held.  The urge to make my mark in the world was so great, I decided to quit college.  Just as my senior year was about to begin, I stepped away from school.

If you have ever started a business or know someone who has, you know there is an incredibly steep learning curve.  Once you figure out how to solve one problem and grow a little, another problem appears that needs solving.  There are many stories of business people succeeding, and then failing, only to pick themselves back up to succeed again.  It’s incredibly hard to personally experience failure, but we learn so much from it.

The business I planned to start did not pan out, so I explored life for a little while.  I spent time in the local social scene, met some amazing people, and gained great new perspective.  I took a step forward in discovering life.

In the early 2000s, I ended up at a mortgage company.  I had friends who were doing well in the mortgage industry during this time, and I figured I could also succeed there.  I found a job quickly at a local mortgage brokerage.  Within months, I was one of the top producers in the company nationally.  


 

Success at First…

Building on early success, and following a passion, I struck out on my own in 2002.  The new business took off.  As quickly as I needed to hire one person, I needed two.  I hired two, and needed three.  After about two years of growth, we needed a bigger office space and began to plan for even further growth.

I believe the success of my mortgage company was rooted in several things.  The first was in how we treated people.  I learned the importance of treating customers with respect, kindness, and with understanding.  This is important no matter how rich or poor you are.  My success was also rooted in being honest with people, owning my mistakes, and working hard in every endeavor.  With the mortgage company, that meant generally staying away from “subprime” mortgages.  It also meant eliminating junk fees from the loans we offered. 

I ended junk fees from my company’s mortgages early on.  I then proposed the entire mortgage industry stop charging junk fees in loans.  A national magazine ran a cover-page article on our efforts to end those fees.  I hoped it would take off as an idea that helped consumers.  Unfortunately, it did not gain traction.  That is, until the mortgage industry collapsed.  In 2008-09, the federal government stepped in and stopped mortgage companies from charging junk fees.  Today, the disclosures for mortgage loans are clearer and fairer for consumers, and prohibit most junk fees.

But it was not enough and the business closed in 2005.  The business’s landlord sued, and I filed bankruptcy.  Then I lost my house to foreclosure. 

Unfortunately, the success of my mortgage company did not last.  Our fast growth turned into its downfall.  We grew too quickly, took on too much office space, and had too many expenses.  It then began to lose income because I shifted from sales to management.  The market was about to turn negative and the money coming into the business was not enough to cover the bills.  I tried to keep the company alive by taking cost cutting measures.  This included moving to a smaller space and cutting expenses.  But it was not enough and the business closed in 2005.  The business’s landlord sued, and I filed bankruptcy.  Then I lost my house to foreclosure. 


 

A Great Positive from a Challenge

I was married the year before my business collapsed to a woman I cared for deeply.  However, the stress, hardship, and challenges that followed proved too much for our marriage.  Despite our efforts and energies to make it work, we divorced a couple years later.  However, we have kept up a positive relationship for our daughter, Alondra.  I am very proud of the wonderful person she is growing up to be.  I cannot be more thankful for my eleven-year-old daughter, who I love very much.

As to Alondra, I can remember the emotional high on the day she was born.  It was a mixture of happiness and humility.  I have never had another day that matched it.  Alondra has grown into an 11-year-old who is kind, considerate, and wise beyond her years.  She is following in the path of her older brother, Adrian.  He is smart, compassionate, and hardworking.  He will be driving soon and has the maturity of someone years his age.  Alondra looks up to him and is proud to have him as her brother.

Alondra and her brother, Adrian

Alondra and her brother, Adrian

Adrian and Alondra after a ballet class that Alondra was taking.

Adrian and Alondra after a ballet class that Alondra was taking.

Alondra enjoys girl things like playing with dolls, sleepovers, and baking cupcakes with her Aunt Karla.  My sister Karla has treated Alondra like her own daughter, and the time they spend together is special.

As to our dad things, Alondra and I get to cook, bike ride, and talk about what is happening in her life. We also like to check out events around town.  She has also been involved with gymnastics, code club, and other school activities.  Her positive attitude and her love of chatting keeps me grounded.  I look forward to the time I get to spend with her, and try to be as present as possible when we are together.  She is a gem in our family, and someone who gets lots of attention! 

My daughter also helps me keep perspective on what is important in life.  She shows me that the end-game is not how much we earn.  Rather, it is the world we leave for future generations.  She helps remind me that life is not about how much we can accumulate for ourselves.  Rather, it is about how much good we can pass on to our kids, grandkids, and others.  What we leave is our legacy.

Selfie!  Alondra and me on a father/daughter vacation last year.  

Selfie!  Alondra and me on a father/daughter vacation last year.  


 

A New Beginning

After my mortgage company closed, I worked for two banks for a while.  But then I realized that I needed to go in a different direction in my life.  I needed to refocus.  I went back to college to finish my undergraduate degree.

By taking a few years off before returning to college, I had a new appreciation for the value of education.  I enjoyed going to class every day.  I enjoyed the challenge of taking hard classes, and worked very hard to do well in school.  I enjoyed statistical analysis and even did a project for a class about applying it to the stock market.  I graduated a year later with better grades and a new love for learning.  I also developed a deep appreciation for the value of education.

I graduated in the spring of 2007 from OSU and decided to apply to law school that summer.  It was the best decision I could have made.  I attend Capital University Law School and excelled right away.  I had finally found my path.

During law school, I focused on classes that were litigation based.  I also focused on helping people.  I knew that I wanted to be in court helping others so I focused on how the court system worked.  I also learned the rules about filing lawsuits and the substantive areas of law that I would need to know.  I took classes that included Consumer Law and Finance Law.  I also took a class on constitutional litigation and class actions.  I dug into studying.

In law school, I worked as a research assistant on a property law issue.  In addition to my studies, I was in student government and acted as the school photographer.  I also helped attorneys around the nation understand mortgage law by reviewing loans for them.  After the first year of law school, I wrote my first legal book called “23 Legal Defenses to Foreclosure.” That book was designed to teach lawyers and people facing foreclosure how to address it.  It is written in plain English.  It shows people how to hold banks and mortgage companies accountable for breaking the law.  The book has sold about 10,000 copies.  

I published a second law-related book after that.  That book is a very boring compilation of an even more boring federal regulation.  It did not sell very many copies.

I published a third book a couple years later called “The Art of War for Lawyers.” It applies Sun Tzu’s famous manual to the legal field.  That last book was a labor of love – something I am very proud to have written over years of work.  It is my favorite of the three books, by far!

Finally, I have some ideas for another book swirling around in my head.  But, it might be a couple more years before I get that one done.  That book will be a little more philosophical than legal.


 

Helping those in Need

During law school, I put my mortgage knowledge to work by volunteering at The Legal Aid Society of Columbus.  I focused on helping people who were facing foreclosure.  The people we helped were not looking for a free house. Instead, they needed help getting back on track after facing hardship.  It was a great real-world application of the knowledge I had gained. 

I was thrilled when I qualified for my “legal intern” license.  That license allowed me to make appearances in court for clients.  I recall aggressively pursuing each case I worked on.  In one case, a lawyer working for the bank asked my supervisor to reassign a case away from me.  Their complaint was that I was creating too much work for them!  I viewed it as a compliment – I was not going to let anyone get away with breaking the law without a fight.  By the time I graduated law school, I had logged more volunteer hours than anyone in my law school class.

Alondra and me at law school graduation.

Alondra and me at law school graduation.

I worked hard at Capital University Law School and graduated 10th in my class, magna cum laude.  I was on the dean’s list every semester.  I received several other awards when I graduated, including two for my pro bono work.  My focus on helping families struggling followed me into law practice.


 

Starting a Law Firm

As school ended, it became clear to me that I would start my own law firm and pursue consumer law.  However, it was important that I find a way to do that while helping people facing financial hardships.  No other local law firm was seriously engaged in the kind of litigation I knew was possible.  Further, most lawyers I spoke with did not think I could help people while staying in business.   I knew there was a way, and set out to do it.

As a company grows from one person to many, it creates a number of new issues to overcome. 

Before starting my law firm, I spent that summer planning the firm.  I worked to get all the details and materials done before November.  That way, I could accept clients as soon as the bar results came in.  Planning (and looking before I leapt) allowed me to carefully plan the firm’s direction.  I passed the bar, was sworn in as an attorney, and opened for business later that day. 

When Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. started, it was just me in my bedroom with a cell phone, computer, website, and printer.  I met with my first few clients in a meeting space shared by other businesses.  I rented a few hours of conference space a month along with a professional mailing address and receptionist.  It was a great way to keep expenses down in the beginning.  I would travel early to the office, meet with clients, then leave after they did.  I took calls on my cell phone and licked every stamp and made every copy myself. 

The law firm was beginning to grow when this picture was taken, as evidence by the window behind me.  I started in my bedroom, before growing to an interior-only office in a business suite.  It took a few months before I splurged on a window office, which is what you see here.

The law firm was beginning to grow when this picture was taken, as evidence by the window behind me.  I started in my bedroom, before growing to an interior-only office in a business suite.  It took a few months before I splurged on a window office, which is what you see here.

When I had a few clients and a little extra cash flow, I moved into one room of a shared office space.  At that point, I hired a part time assistant.  My assistant and I shared the same small room until we had a few more clients and could afford a private office.  I paid cash for everything, and avoided credit.  When I had enough paying clients to cover the cost of a full-time person, I hired a full-time person.  I repeated this several times as we grew.  The building allowed us to just rent the office space we needed. 

After about the twelfth hire, we needed permanent space.  So, I moved the firm from the shared space to an office in Dublin.  The new office allowed us to grow a little more.  It also enabled us to have our own conference rooms and dedicated support staff.  The firm size now is about 18 people, which is a healthy number to manage.  In 2017, I promoted a senior attorney to a part owner.  He helps manage the day-to-day operation of the law firm.  He will take on a greater role as time moves forward.


 

Managing Growth

One of the most exciting things about owning a company is figuring out how to overcome new challenges.  You have a lot of them while you grow.  As a company grows from one person to many, it creates a number of new issues to overcome.  You cannot imagine many of them when a little smaller.  When you are on your own, you handle everything.  You figure out how to fix every little thing that comes up.  This includes everything from fixing a broken internet connection to ordering paper.   It is all your responsibility!

As you grow to a handful of people, entrepreneurs tend to treat each new person as an extension of themselves.  That is, you have a bunch of plates spinning in the air, and the new people are there to help you spin more plates.  That works for a while.  However, then you realize that setting up processes help things run on their own.  The old proverb rings true that if you give someone a fish, they eat for a day; if you teach them how to fish they eat for a lifetime.

Processes then start to improve.  Once that happens, you begin to focus more on the overall experience your employees are having.  It is hard sometimes to see this in the very beginning, because you are struggling to build a business.  But as you grow and lose great people, you realize you have to make some changes. 

We started working to improve people’s life at work by asking everyone what they thought about the firm.  We did this through an anonymous survey.  It was so helpful that now we do this every month.  We asked people to be brutally honest, and we received some very good feedback.  We learned people liked the firm, loved their co-workers, but wanted more training and regular feedback.  So, we developed a training program for new employees.  We also shifted things around so everyone gets feedback on a regular basis.  We meet to go over cases each month.  We also meet to gauge how people are doing overall, and what we can do to make their lives better.

The benefits of focusing on the employee experience have been tremendous.  We cannot pay people what the major corporate law firms pay.  However, we can focus on the everyday experiences people are having at the firm.  Now we bring in a massage therapist once a month.  An acupuncturist, Tessa Olson, also comes in once a month.  Since one of our employees used to be a barista, we have regular coffee tastings too.  The results of these and our other efforts have been outstanding.

I am very thankful for our employees, staff, and clients who have made the firm successful!


 

Helping People who are in Foreclosure

My law firm focuses on helping people who are facing foreclosure.  We assist people against abusive debt collectors.  We also help people who are having problems with bad businesses.   We do all this without our clients having to file bankruptcy.

I have found that the people who call us for help with a foreclosure are good people. They just happened to have something bad happen in their life.  That bad thing caused a payment hiccup.  Usually, it was a job loss, injury, or illness that caused them to miss a month or two of mortgage payments. 

Most of our clients try for weeks (or months) to get back on track with their mortgage company.  Despite their efforts, they are not able to get things done on their own.  When this happens, we step in to ensure the banks follow the law.  We hold banks accountable to the same standards they expect of our clients.  This usually results in our clients getting onto a payment plans that save their homes.   

Most people think that the bank “does not want their home,” meaning that the bank is going to work with them to avoid losing it.  However, I learned over time that is true in the rare instance that a community bank or credit union holds the loan.  (This is one reason why I believe in and support credit unions and community banks.)  The vast majority of mortgages held by the big banks are not actually owned by those banks. 

The mortgage servicer that accepts payments is not usually the company that owns the loan.  Because of this, it does not have an incentive to prevent foreclosure.  The mortgage servicer will not bear the loss from the sheriff’s sale.  Worse, the servicer can rack up fees and costs that they skim off the top before charging the loss to the bondholders.  Bondholders are the ones who own the loans and take the losses.  These bondholders (usually retirement accounts) can take huge losses while the banks profit.

When my law firm gets involved, we hold the big banks accountable for every law they break.  We look at their conduct from loan origination to sheriff’s sale.  Our involvement usually results in our clients saving their homes and getting back into payment plans.  Since it is already in my nature to fight against bullies, we developed a reputation as a firm that gets results. 

As to keeping the lights on at the office, we charge a small monthly payment for our work.  In other cases, the laws allow us to recover our fees from the other side.  In many cases, I would rather write off a balance to help a client, than for them to end up back in foreclosure because of my bill.  Because of that, my firm writes off about a million dollars a year in client debt.  We still make a profit, so I don’t mind in the slightest.


 

Focusing on People

I am proud that our clients have attorneys working for them who are just as smart and hardworking as the lawyers who work for big corporations.  My law firm has maintained an excellent track record of helping clients, and has a reputation for not backing down from a fight.  We have helped hundreds of people facing foreclosure and countless people scammed out of money.  We serve the community by working on behalf of people. 

In one case, we stopped the eviction of a disabled man whose neighbors wanted him to move out because he was different. 

My firm is a for-profit company, but I think that balancing profits with being fair is also important.  I regularly volunteer at legal clinics, and offer billable credits to my attorneys to do the same thing.  We also did something that is unique in the legal field.  We hired an attorney dedicated to doing work for people struggling.

The “pro bono” position came about during Christmas, 2014.  My family and I were gathered at my father’s house, where we were opening presents.  It was one of the best holidays I can remember with everyone happy, laughing, and enjoying themselves.  There was a small pile of presents in front of my daughter for her to open.  She was beaming ear-to-ear, and was happy beyond words for her new doll outfits and toys.  As a parent, my heart was full of joy and happiness. 

I thought about how happy I was for my daughter.  Then I realized that my business had a good year.  I had the ability to do more to help others. I also realized that I could let go of my past failures. 

My sister and daugther opening presents at Christmas.

My sister and daugther opening presents at Christmas.

Over the next few hours I thought a lot about that and how I could give back.  I thought about giving money to a charity or doing some other kind of benefit.  Then I realized that I had a gift for the law, and that I could leverage my skills for others.  The idea of paying a lawyer to do pro bono work was born.

In thinking about how the position would function, I met with The Legal Aid Society of Columbus to gauge its needs.  It appeared clear that one of the largest unmet legal needs is helping people in eviction.  Some landlords are not fair with tenants.  Some do not provide heat in the winter, plumbing that works, or safe living conditions.   

We hired an attorney to give free and low-cost work for those in need shortly thereafter, and he went to work right away.  We had a couple attorneys fill this position, with some terrific success stories for our clients (the position is currently vacant).  In one case, we stopped the eviction of a disabled man whose neighbors wanted him to move out because he was different.  In another, we helped get relief for a family who were severely bitten by bedbugs the night they moved into their apartment.  In many cases, we help families and landlords mutually walk away from problem situations.  I remain proud of the work we do for people who otherwise would not be able to secure legal representation.  It is part of who I am, and part of my mission in life.

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My Mission

Hard work has its rewards, and I enjoy the fruits of my labor.  However, I also recognize that money is not everything in life.  When I am on my deathbed looking back, I want to have done more than just made money.  I want to have made lives better.   I want to have lifted others facing challenges, and to have shaped a better world.  I want my daughter and her grandkids someday to achieve more than me.  I hope you feel the same way about shaping a better future.

To shape a better future for Ohio, we must have a vision of what that better Ohio looks like.

My vision is for our kids and grandkids to have a great public education and debt-free options for college.  They should be able to attend college, trade school, or vocational school without facing mountains of debt.  Young adults should be able to start a family in their 20s.  We should all have affordable healthcare.  We should be able to retire at a reasonable age, and pass along a healthy environment.  Our kids should love their community as much as their community loves them.  

When I think about what our children need to succeed in 20 to 40 years, I realize that the things they will need can benefit Ohio today.  We know that Ohio is becoming more advanced.  We know that the highest paying jobs of the future will need advanced training.  Because of that, it makes sense to invest in public education. Better public education also leads to more successful careers and more well-rounded people. When we create incentives to learn, we all benefit.

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We need to take care of the vulnerable, too.  We must remember that falling on hard times does not mean the other side gets to walk all over you.  We need fairness, justness, and a sense of community.  We must address the opioid epidemic, and recognize that the solution requires that we look at what kind of community we are becoming.  We need solutions to be the result of thinking, not just reactions to fear.

When we work towards a better Ohio for the future, I believe we also make Ohio better today.  When we implement plans to improve the lives of our kids 20 years from now, we also improve the lives of our citizens today.  I know we can do better for our future, and that is the reason I am running to be your next State Representative.  I hope you join me in making Ohio a better place for all of us.  Please sign up to volunteer, or donate so I can share my story with more voters.


 

Thank You for Reading

I hope that you have been able to learn a little more about me by reading my story.  I hope that you have a better idea about the experiences that have shaped me as a person.  Further, I hope that my dedication to helping others and my vision for the future is what you want in an elected official.  Please take the next step by donating to my campaign, or signing up to volunteer.  Every little bit helps.

I recognize there is a lot of work to do.  However, with the right vision and the right plan, we can make it happen together.  I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting it done, and hope you feel the same way!

Please click here to follow my campaign’s progress, support my race, or to volunteer.   You can also find information here on how to earn rewards for being involved.  You can reach me directly at troy@troydoucet.com or at (614) 878-4588 if you would like to talk further.  I look forward to earning your vote to be your State Representative to the 21st Ohio House District!  Please take a moment to support my campaign by clicking here