An Out-of-the-Box Legal Job Search Strategy

Unconventional job-search strategies provide an edge over what your competition is likely doing. Here’s one such strategy that incorporates data and trends that can help you determine where and what you might want to practice.

Analyzing Consumer Complaints

Every year about this time (March), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) releases its annual summary of consumer complaints, the Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, which contains a gold mine of information concerning what Americans are griping about. The Data Book provides category breakdowns and state specific data collected by the Consumer Sentinel Network (CSN)—a secure online database of millions of consumer complaints available only to law enforcement, including the FTC. The 2016 edition is based on more than 3 million consumer complaints, which the FTC sorted into 30 top complaint categories.

Who Complains the Most?

If you want to represent consumers that have beefs, you can’t go wrong if you practice in Florida, Georgia, Michigan, or Delaware. Florida, Georgia, and Michigan are the “Big Three” of overall consumer complaints, while Michigan, Florida, and Delaware top the list for identity theft complaints.

The Data Book even drills down into specific metropolitan areas. In 2016 the top ten areas reporting the most per capita complaints were:

  • Homosassa Springs, FL
  • Santa Fe, NM
  • Prescott, AZ
  • Weirton-Steubenville, WV-OH
  • Charleston, WV
  • Spokane, WA
  • Myrtle Beach, SC
  • Washington, DC
  • Gainesville, FL
  • Jacksonville, FL

What Do Consumers Complain About?

Debt collection complaints were the top category last year, comprising 28 percent of all complaints. Identity theft is hot, with stolen identities used to commit tax fraud comprising 29 percent of this category. Rounding out the “Top Ten” were: telephone and mobile services, banks and lenders, prizes/sweepstakes/lotteries, shop-at-home/catalog sales, auto-related complaints, credit bureaus/information furnishers/report users, and television and electronic media complaints.

CSN logged more than 1.2 million fraud-related complaints in 2016. Consumers reported paying over $744 million to these fraudsters. Fifty-one percent of these consumers said they paid something. It almost goes without saying that Florida leads the nation when it comes to the highest per capita rate of reported fraud (the Feds Medicare fraud task force devotes 80 percent of its resources to Miami-Dade County!).

Up-and-Coming Complaints

Just this week, I received four calls from people claiming to be from the IRS, warning me that I owed huge amounts in unpaid taxes, and threatening me with draconian consequences if I did not pay up immediately. The IRS never calls. It writes via “snail-mail.” The FTC is increasingly concerned with the surge in this kind of activity, which it labels “imposter scams” and intends to devote considerably more resources to go after them. Credit card fraud also saw a big jump in 2016, with complaints doubling in just a year.

Using This Info

The decision you make about location—where to practice—is a crucial one that often gets lost in the job-search shuffle. The Data Book can provide some pretty good direction in this respect. Moreover, if you decide that a consumer fraud practice fits your aspirations, know that fraud is the gift that keeps on giving.