This year has been a tough one for consumer attorneys. From our painfully close loss on the arbitration rule that would have allowed class actions against financial service institution’s unlawful acts, to ongoing threats to debt collection, student lending, and payday lending laws and rules, to the imminent regulatory capture of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 2017 cannot be gone soon enough for me. And while 2018 looks like it will be once again a challenge for anyone committed to the concepts of a fair and equitable consumer marketplace and justice system, there is much we can do to build a brighter future for our community and our consumer clients.
First, we must be more inclusive. Consumer protection should not be a partisan issue—standing up against fraud and unfair and deceptive corporate behavior is an idea that all people can and should believe in. Regardless of what we, our colleagues, or our clients believe about other “hot button” political matters, we should work on building broad coalitions on the issues that we care about and that bring us together as a community.
Second, we need to think locally. As someone who lives and works in Washington, DC, we are not going to change our national political dysfunction until we become more engaged in our local communities and neighborhoods and demonstrate the importance of our work and the power of treating each other with kindness and respect. That may mean serving on your local school board, taking a leadership role with your local bar association, or even running for political office—including Congress, as several of our members (and their spouses) are doing this year!
Finally, we just need to keep doing what we are doing. As Bobby Kennedy said in his famous 1966 speech in Cape Town, South Africa:
“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. . . It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
So together, let’s continue to stand up for our ideals, improve the lot of the people who come to us for help, and stand up against consumer injustice whenever we see it. If we do, we may not see much change this year or the next, but I am certain that we will someday create a more fair and just world for our children and our children’s children.