Steven Lefkoff, Lefkoff Law, Atlanta. John Disney/ALM

Steven Lefkoff has started his own firm, Lefkoff Law, with a unique niche representing used car dealers, along with the finance companies that make car loans.

“If you Google ‘car dealer lawyer,’ there are not a whole bunch, but if you Google ‘sue a car dealer,’ there are pages and pages,” he said.

Lefkoff, 32, started out working for Scott King at Jacobs & King, where he found he liked advising car dealers, because it requires business sense as much as legal skills. Now, after seven years in practice, he said, he’s ready to be his own boss.

He said there are more than 4,000 used car dealers in Georgia—mostly independent, mom and pop shops, and he’s one of just a few lawyers in the state who caters to them. His business comes from referrals, mainly from Georgia Independent Auto Dealer Association members he’s represented and other attorneys.

In addition to government regulations and contracts, Lefkoff helps clients with the inevitable customer disputes.

Dealers generally borrow money from a finance company to buy cars at auction, then sell them to a consumer who’s also using a finance company, so there are a lot of points where money changes hands, Lefkoff said. “Crazy things come up at each of those stages.”

In one odd case, a finance company called him after a customer sent a 60-page document saying they would not be paying off the outstanding $22,000 on their car note, because they’d formed their own country (on their property)—and they’d declared debt illegal.

“Could we have spent a fortune and litigated over the borders of their country? Sure,” Lefkoff said.

Instead, he advised the client to wait until the new principality-holder defaulted on the note and then repossess the car, which the client did.

Lefkoff said he often deals with pro se litigants, who can have their own novel theories of law. One buyer whose car was repossessed by another finance company named the vehicle itself as a defendant in a claim for wrongful repossession.

“It was a pain. It was an actual filed lawsuit. I had to look into whether the vehicle could be a defendant: Did it perform a wrongful act? Who is the vehicle’s lawyer?” Lefkoff said, adding that he always hopes plaintiffs have an attorney.

He ended up filing a motion to dismiss, saying a vehicle can’t be a bad actor.

A big problem in used vehicle cases is there is very little established case law, Lefkoff said, since taking a case to appellate court is costly—often more than the asset is worth.

“It’s expensive to go to court and pay a lawyer when this is an area where there is not a lot of precedent—and you don’t know what’s going to happen—over a car that’s worth $15,000 or $20,000.”

For that reason, Lefkoff said he does a lot of “preventative maintenance” for clients, reviewing dealers’ forms and files and auditing their lots, to avoid litigation in the first place.

“When these dealers do the right thing and have good relationships with their consumers, they have a far lower attorney fee bill,” he said.

Lefkoff Law is located at 5605 Glenridge Drive in Sandy Springs.

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