Michael Fuller’s Passion
Hello, I’m Michael Fuller! Growing up, we didn’t know any lawyers. My passion to practice law came from TV shows and movies.
Oregon Boy Makes Good
I bring my old 1.167 GPA report card when I talk at Oregon high schools. It’s proof that truly anyone can become a lawyer if they really want to.
My mom has always been there for me. One year when we couldn’t afford Christmas presents, she made me this coupon book instead! I’ve kept it all this time.
The day I passed the bar was the best day in my life. I was held back in the first grade and expelled from middle school. I come from humble beginnings, was raised in a trailer park by a single mom, and am the first in my family to attend college.
“My mom let me watch My Cousin Vinny when I was 12. From then on, whenever anyone asked what I wanted to do when I grew up, I said “I want to be a lawyer“. I’ve watched My Cousin Vinny over 100 times now (including the night before the bar exam).” – Michael Fuller
As a kid I watched street-smart attorneys fight for underdogs regardless of their ability to pay.
I watched Matlock with my grandma every summer growing up. Attorney Ben Matlock would agree to help wrongfully accused defendants, whether they could afford his big retainer or not.
If it wasn’t for great teachers, my dream of becoming a lawyer would never have come true. My high school teacher Bill Rexford put me in advanced classes even though I was a bad student. My sixth grade teacher Mike Zimmerlund continued to mentor me throughout college, and even wrote one of my letters of recommendation for law school.
Now I love going back to my old high school as a guest speaker. I teach the same You and the Law class that Bill Rexford taught me back in 1999.
Ask Michael Fuller a Question
I’m happy to tell you what I know at no cost. Unfortunately I get hundreds of messages each day and though I try, I’m not always able to personally respond to each of them.
My Passion for Social Justice
My passion to fight for the underdog probably comes from reading the Bible as a kid. Growing up on food stamps and free school lunch, I related more to David than Goliath. I come from humble beginnings, and I really liked how the Bible told the rich to care for the poor.
“The good guys in Bible stories are almost always poor underdogs fighting against injustice. From the Old Testament to the teachings of Jesus, the Bible presents strong messages of social justice and fairness.” – Michael Fuller
In college I was surprised to learn that our laws requiring fair credit, good business practices, and debt forgiveness all trace back to the Bible. For example, the Bible tells the rich to lend freely, cancel debts after seven years, and treat people fairly – very similar to America’s consumer protection laws.
My Passion for Consumer Protection
As a kid, I watched The Godfather over and over until I memorized all of the lines.
“You found paradise in America. You had a good trade, you made a good living. The police protected you and there were courts of law. So you didn’t need a friend like me. Now you come and say “Don Corleone, give me justice.” – Vito Corleone, The Godfather
The opening scene perfectly described how helpless I felt growing up.
No cop was going to arrest the salesman who sold my mom a broken kitchen table. No attorney was going to stop our landlord from bulldozing our trailer park. And the courts weren’t going to stop the bank from garnishing my mom’s wages.
As a kid I would fantasize that some Godfather figure would show up in my life and finally give us justice.
The Godfather helped the poor without ever asking for a dime. He knew how to return a favor. He got his start helping a little old lady with a landlord problem.
At age 15 I started working as many jobs as I could. My only goal in life was to escape the trailer park. Read about my first jobs.
Now I do everything in my power to even the score for the poor.
The Passion of the Underdog
By Michael Fuller
Suing banks is my favorite sport behind boxing. That’s why I started calling my website Michael Fuller, the Underdog Lawyer.
Growing up poor, I developed a passion in my heart to fight ruthless banks and unfair corporations.
As a kid, I watched big companies take advantage of the little guy, and there wasn’t anything anyone could do about it. Now I take particular pleasure in extracting as much money and inflicting as much damage against Wall Street as the law allows. The following story explains the fuel for my passion.
Act One – The Bank Loan
Growing up poor was tough. At one point I remember sleeping three to a bed at my aunt’s place while my mom got on her feet. We switched elementary schools several times, and in 1996 we settled into a trailer park in Hillsboro.
“As far as I know this is the only video of me as a kid. My uncle recently sent it to me. How cool!” – Michael Fuller
My mom bought a mobile home with an interest-only mortgage loan from Washington Mutual bank. She hoped to build equity, and liked having her own space to garden. With any luck, the mobile home’s value would rise as the loan officer said, and she would eventually refinance into a stick-built home. My mom made her mortgage payments for eight years without ever missing a payment.
Act Two – Eviction
Shortly after September 11, 2001, I became the first in my family to attend college. By 2004, I was studying for finals when my mom called with bad news. She said a California developer bought the trailer park lot and gave all the tenants a notice of eviction. The notice warned that all mobile homes would be demolished in exactly one year if they weren’t moved.
My mom and the other tenants quickly learned that banks wouldn’t make a loan to move a mobile home. And existing parks weren’t accepting new tenants. Across the country, land values were skyrocketing. Subprime lending spurred all-time high levels of new home construction. As a result, developers started buying up trailer park lots and evicting tenants as fast as possible. They were making way for more profitable condos and row houses. By mid 2005, my mom and hundreds of her co-tenants had no choice but to abandon their homes and go back to apartment living. The next year, the developer bulldozed all the mobile homes.
Act Three – Bankruptcy
My mom contacted Washington Mutual bank about mortgage refinancing or modification options. The bank’s only advice: file bankruptcy before its attorneys garnished her wages. My mom worked at a bowling alley and her wages were my family’s only income. We were poor but my mom always prided herself in having good credit. In fact, her bankruptcy petition (Case No. 05-37773-tmb7) schedule F was blank. She had no credit cards, medical bills, payday loans, or other unsecured debts to speak of. Her sole reason for filing was Washington Mutual’s threat of a wage garnishment. She was morally and financially devastated. As a student of economics and disciple of capitalism, I was torn. Within a year, my mom and old neighbors were suddenly homeless and bankrupt, through no real fault of their own.
The bank and developer’s actions were ruthless but legal. The developer was within its rights to demolish the tenants’ mobile homes, provided it gave proper notice. And the bank was within its rights to garnish the tenants’ wages because the law that protected stick-built homeowners from deficiency judgments didn’t apply to mobile homeowners. My passion turned from outrage to revenge. I set out to become a consumer protection attorney.
Below is a quote from my 2005 law school application to Willamette:
I want to expose poor families to good financial advice, and empower them with the financial knowledge many in the entitled class take for granted.
I was among the poorest students in law school. But the dean gave me a full ride and always helped me out with money when I needed it.
Throughout law school I fantasized about legally taking from banks with the same ruthlessness and disregard for fairness that Washington Mutual and the California developer took from the trailer park tenants. So long as it was legal, I wanted to inflict as much collateral damage as I could. Fortunately, my dream came true and I now make my living passionately fighting against banks in court on behalf of the underdog.
Ironically, the morally bankrupt corporations that fueled my passion to attend law school became financially bankrupt before I had time to pass the bar and exact my revenge. After 120 years in business, Washington Mutual bank collapsed in 2008. The subprime market scandal of 2007 hit before the California developer could subdivide the park.
Michael Fuller’s childhood mobile home was leveled in 2006. The lot sat vacant and undeveloped for over a decade.