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Manny Newburger describes himself as a “simple trial attorney” with consumer protection experience. He is a straight shooter who eschews legal jargon in favor of speaking in plain English.
The sum total of Manny Newburger, however, is greater than those parts. He is widely respected as one of the industry’s most knowledgeable educators on Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) compliance.
In 2010, with the Federal Trade Commission launching an investigation into debt-buying industry practices and untold conflicting state and federal collection laws leaving many players confused about the laws they need to follow, Newburger's voice in the industry may be more critical than ever.
Newburger, a member with Austin, Texas-based Barron, Newburger & Sinsley PLLC, has been retained by collection agencies, law firms, debt buyers and creditors across the United States, and his consulting services on FDCPA compliance take him all over the world. Last year alone, he made three trips to India and two to the Philippines.
“I am really just a simple trial attorney who fell into doing compliance work when clients asked, ‘Can you keep me from getting in trouble again?’ Over the years we’ve done a lot of compliance work but it’s what came naturally to me,” Newburger tells Collections & Credit Risk.
“In the early years of my practice I did collection work, but I also did consumer protection work on the plaintiff’s side,” he says, adding that FDCPA compliance was a natural outgrowth of knowing both consumer law and the collection industry.
Barbara Barron, managing member at Barron, Newburger & Sinsley and Newburger’s colleague of 26 years, says his knowledge of consumer law and collections, and his strong moral code, are some of his greatest assets.
“The reason he’s so good is because he knows the industry from both sides. He has always been a champion of the right way to do things, not whether you are plaintiff or defendant, or a debtor or creditor,” Barron says. “His philosophy, which has become the philosophy of the firm, is we tell clients what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.”
Newburger’s consultations are in demand, he says, because his method of teaching FDCPA compliance is popular and because it is done so using everyday language.
“What I teach is much more geared toward the notion that you can follow the law and still do the job. You can be nice people and collect money. Compliance in itself is a collection technique,” he says. “I can talk to people in plain English about the law and that works well for collectors. If you talk to collectors I have trained, they’ll tell you I’ll spend three hours talking to them using little jargon at all. In general I find people who talk like lawyers tend to not be very good communicators.”
His work has earned him recognition at the local, state and the national level. In 1999 Newburger received the State Bar of Texas’ Frank J. Scurlock award for legal services to the poor, and in 2006 he received the J. Chrys Dougherty Award from Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas.
Newburger also has received the Don Kramer Award in 2005 from the National Association of Retail Collection Attorneys, and in 2008 he received the President’s Cup from the Commercial Law League of America.
Ultimately, Newburger says his greatest value to the industry is that he is practical and strives to understand both sides of an issue.
“I am neither an apologist for the collection industry, nor for bad collection practices,” he says. “I just simply think there are a lot of very good people in the industry who try to do things right and I am really happy to help them do what they can to keep doing things right.”
Spoken, as he says, like a “simple trial attorney.”