Since this firm is a heavy (infomercial) advertiser of longstanding on local TV, is able to answer complex questions and focuses on estate planning for the elderly, I thought the principals would be a perfect fit for my needs.
The first thing I learned after contacting Takacs McGinnis Elder Law, hoping to hire Tim Takacs and Barbara McGinnis was that I was to be vetted before being able to speak with an attorney. That was fine. In fact, having checked the firm's online reviews, the only complaint I saw was that they charged too much.
Keeping that in mind, but believing that assessment to be relative in the absence of further information (which the complainant did not provide), I felt that Tim Takacs and Barbara McGinnis presented themselves as honest, good people interested in providing a service to clients with whom they would establish a long-term professional relationship, if that's what clients needed as their circumstances changed.
Once vetted, I was disappointed to learn that I would not be assigned to either Tim nor Barbara based on my particular needs, I was told. I was assigned to another attorney, who, unlike Tim and Barbara, is not listed on the firm's website as having elder law certification.
Still, that seemed to be OK since, at the every least, Chris Johnson was under the principals' "wing."
Prior to a Covid-era Ring Central consultation hookup with Chris, I was asked to complete and submit the firm's "workbook." A great many personal questions were asked- as I put it, everything other than my sex life seemed to be fair game- but, as was explained in the documentation, all information about income, assets, etc. was required in order to obtained the best service.
In other words, trust was required, which made perfect sense as long as it was reciprocal which I had no reason to that point to believe it wasn't. My trust increased when Chris had no objection to my including my financial adviser and an attorney who represents one of the charities which will be among my beneficiaries on the consultation conference call.
The fee of a few hundred dollars for the nonrefundable consultation was to be put toward the fee of a few thousand dollars should I agree after the consultation to have Chris draft the neccessary documents, which included not only the standard ones but a transfer of a land trust and a share of a business I own- with its late founders' own rules that don't perfectly align with my interests at this stage of my life- to a larger revocable trust. I was also told that if my needs changed/increased in the manner that the firm's advertising suggests is part of the total commitment to a client's welfare, the continuity did not really exist and past payments would be pretty much irrelevant.
Again, I wouldn't need that deeper relationship anytime soon, so I was glad at least for the full disclosure, if only at that point, and even though I think persistent advertising to the contrary is exceedingly misleading and that, again, the full disclosure of the stripped down service I was to receive should have occurred earlier on.
The lengthy Ring Central consultation seemed to go well and the call (that also included Chris' assistant as well as the gentlemen previously mentioned) ended with the expectation that, as Covid was seemingly easing up, a socially-distanced office appointment would be scheduled after Chris had an opportunity, following the call, to speak with the other attorney (the one representing one of the charities that will be among my beneficiaries) to better clarify and meet my intentions.
Over a week later I received an email from Chris with the subject line "Unable to Move Forward." Chris' short, terse response was "I regret to inform you that we will be unable to represent you in the matter that we met about... It was wonderful meeting with you, [and the others]; and we wish you the best of luck in putting your plan together."
My first reaction after calling my "team"- both of whom could not have been more shocked (especially the charity's attorney who said Chris gave no hint of his apparent doubts during their private conversation)- was that there had been a misunderstanding. I responded via email to that effect when Chris would not take my phone call and I was told the outcome was signed off on by Tim and Barbara- who, like Chris- I nave never met.
Chris' response was a refusal to allow me to try to address and/or clarify any possible misunderstanding as he refused to give me any general, let alone specific, reason for why he was "unable to go forward."
Further, he did not offer a referral nor any indication that the vetting process in which I offered my total assistance and cooperation was less than thorough by whatever his yardstick.
I felt betrayed and, having thoroughly trusted Chris, my feelings would be no different had he sexually assaulted me. He retains my exceedingly personal information for perpetuity for and purpose he wishes and yet I no longer have any basis with which to trust him with it.
Now, in fairness to Chris and the firm, my credit card was never charged for the consultation, but if Chris thought the conference call did not go well he could have diplomatically ended it at any time. And, if he felt that by doing so it might embarrass me in front of my "team," he could have made the effort to contact me privately immediately thereafter.
This experience has created trust issues for me as I "go forward" and I hope others will ask more questions than it appears I did when I set myself up to be taken advantage of by a firm that is diminished by treating potential clients in this manner and that I wish would practice what it preaches.