I frequently run into this issue. People need the record cleared to get the better job that will give them the increased pay to pay for the service that clears their record. It is frustrating for my customers and frustrating for me as well. I frequently think of J. Wellington Wimpy’s quote from Popeye’s cartoon, “I will gladly pay you Tuesday, for a hamburger today”.
Some customers will put the purchase on a credit card so that they can manage their monthly payments on their schedule. But an unavoidable consequence of those who have convictions on their records is that they may have bad or no credit. The financial struggle of living paycheck to paycheck and taking any job available is part of the soul-crushing challenge caused by criminal convictions. Many people are ‘un-banked’ or ‘under-banked’ which adds to the credit challenges. Additionally, credit card interest rates can make this an unattractive option.
My law firm’s solution is to quote reasonable prices (a flat rate of $1650 for the preparation, documenting, filing and tracking of a pardon application on a single docket), and offer an extended payment plan (1/2 down followed by $200 per month on the balance with interest of 1.5% per month). I have been told that customers have received quotes from other law firms from $3500 to $7,500 payable up front. Any way you cut it, that is a lot of money. Even with my firm’s payment plan, it can still seem insurmountable. One of the interesting aspects of my business is that I will book customers this year that I first contacted 2 or 3 years ago. They set a goal, and they stayed in touch.
Some customers arrange personal financing from a family member or friend. As opposed to most other purchases, a Pardon (if granted) will undoubtedly lead to thousands and tens of thousands of more dollars in the following years and decades. And a pardon is the ONLY remedy to remove a misdemeanor or felony conviction. And so, frequently, a grandparent, an uncle, a mother or father comes to the rescue. But it does not guarantee the granting of a Pardon and that means a huge amount of money is at risk if the pardon is not issued. So the debate of value versus benefit goes on and on. (By the way, we charge 1/2 price for a 2nd application if any of our clients’ Pardons are not granted – the rules say we must wait one year and then can re-file the application).
Stimulus Payments and Tax Refunds
Many past customers have used their stimulus payment to get the process started, and others allocate their tax refund to the Pardon.
3rd Party Financing
Recently, RecordEraser sent out an email asking prospects if they were interested in 3rd party financing. An online lender was willing to offer credit to appropriate candidates to pay their legal fees on terms the customer would work out independently. Surprisingly, there was virtually NO response to this letter of interest. People seem to think “I know what it cost to get started and I’ll save until I have it”. But frankly, the thoughts regarding the financing is one of the most opaque aspects of this business.
There is only one Path Forward
After doing this business for over ten years, there is only one path forward, which is the Record Eraser way:
- find out exactly what is on your record,
- get a quote for the appropriate services and ‘eligibility’
- get a plan for what can be cleared and when,
- know that Pennsylvania’s Board of Pardons is doing exceptional work in getting people with convictions cleared and back to work
- move toward the Goal!