Chad Echols’ experience volunteering with the ACA’s Attorney State Chair Program – a new and improved version of the Map State Compliance Chair Program – helps build his career and members’ businesses.

When the phone rings at Chad Echols' South Carolina-based law firm, it may be a call from a client or a fellow ACA International member seeking his input on a legal question.

For more than a decade, Echols served as a Members Attorney Program State Chair for South Carolina and currently volunteers with the new and improved version of this program, now known as the Attorney State Chair Program.

Rebranded in 2016, the Attorney State Chair Program provides ACA units and their members with access to an attorney licensed to practice law in their state. These attorneys have volunteered to take calls and make themselves available as legal resources and referral attorneys, as their schedules permit.

The Attorney State Chair Program was created based on recommended changes to the MAP State Compliance Chair Program to ensure the chairpersons are an integral part of the unit.

Echols said he learns a lot talking to members about their legal questions. "It's a very enjoyable part of my role in assisting the industry," he said.

Echols also serves as the South Carolina State Legislative Chair and, before forming The Echols Firm, LLC, he worked as an attorney at Hamilton, Martens & Ballou, LLC. He started his career in the collection industry as vice president and general counsel at ACA member company Williams & Fudge, Inc., where he remains outside general counsel.

He regularly connects with members in South Carolina and others from around the country with licenses to collect in the state.

They often have questions about regulatory issues and litigation compliance. Thanks to his career experience and longtime involvement with ACA, Echols is able to provide insight into these issues that members can use to implement changes at their companies.

"Hopefully ACA members can get context to a compliance problem or litigation trend that is out there," Echols said. "Letter litigation is a good example. An ACA member may have done something with a letter a few years ago that was compliant at that time, but has not changed or updated the letter because a new or developing issue has not been litigated against them. When a problem crops up, I advise the agency to look at other things that are trending, so they can bring policies and processes up to date."

Echols also helps members understand current litigation trends. "I think for may agencies they are standing in the woods where they can smell the smoke, but they don't know where the fire is coming from," he said. "As a volunteer and attorney with experience in multiple cases and litigation, you can see those trends and help members understand why certain cases are progressing or assist the agency so they can clarify a specific legal problem or national trend."

The program chairs serve a crucial role as a liaison between ACA and the affiliated state and regional unit members, helping to strengthen relationships and partnerships between attorneys and their member clients.

"I think one way we assist is to help unit members gauge how big a problem they're facing actually is, so they can decide the proper next steps," Echols said. "Agencies with a small litigation portfolio view new litigation as a very big problem. Sometimes it is a big problem. Other times, my experience can provide them confidence the matter is simply a nuisance."

Echols said volunteering with the Attorney State Chair Program helps him stay connected with fellow members and the industry.

"The collection industry is big business, but it's a 'small industry' because people know each other," he said. "I have developed friendships and business relationships by being able to volunteer. I enjoy the camaraderie of ACA and working with other lawyers across the country who are assisting members. Being able to understand what's going on in the national landscape helps everyone in the local unit."

By Katy Zillmer for the August 2017 Edition of Collector Magazine