I meet with a lot of clients who have previously filed a bankruptcy with someone else and are facing their second bankruptcy after the first one failed. And inevitably, what I find when I sit down and speak with them is that they never really understood their first bankruptcy. They never really got to speak with their attorney. They never really had anything explained to them. So how does this happen? I think the likely scenario is this:
“They call a bankruptcy attorney who their friends told them about but who they never met. They may even get to talk to a bankruptcy attorney on the phone for a couple of minutes if they are lucky. The bankruptcy attorney insists on emailing them a package of forms and worksheets for them to fill out.”
Bankruptcy, all from the convenience of home, right?! Wrong.
The problem is that the forms do not make much sense. They are difficult, but the client suffers through and does their best at answering them. Surely, someone is going to review those answers right? So they drop off the stack of forms at the office with a paralegal who types up all those half answers. The clients show up later to sign their paperwork and again it’s a paralegal who gives them 30 to 60 pages of material. Everything is tabbed nicely, sign here, sign here, sign here, and that’s it. The client has just signed everything under a penalty of perjury but never really was given the time to review anything. Here is where the bankruptcy attorney pops in for five minutes in a nice suit to shake hands and tell them his name. No, no, he won’t be the one at the hearing with them in a month—that will be his junior associate fresh out of law school but nice to meet you and thanks.
I’ve seen this pattern over and over in the 17 years I’ve spent practicing bankruptcy law and, to be honest, it makes me sick. People who are filing bankruptcy are overwhelmed. They feel like they are drowning, and they are looking for a life line.
Please understand, bankruptcy is not what I do, it’s ALL I do. But 17 years ago when I was a fresh (unbearded) face out of law school and I was first introduced to those forms, I couldn’t fill them out correctly either. The problem with all those forms and worksheets is simple: I had to be taught by other attorneys. I had to go to hearings. I had to speak with trustees. I had to stand before judges. So how can any bankruptcy attorney expect you, the client, to fill out those forms and worksheets by yourself? It’s not for your convenience that you are asked to fill out a package of worksheets, it’s for the firm’s convenience that you are asked to do their homework for them.
I aim to do something different. I meet with all my clients personally. We will talk about your life and what led you to my office. We will go over together what you hope to accomplish. If bankruptcy seems right for you, we will talk about what bankruptcy is, how it works, and the different kinds of bankruptcy. I will ask you every question that makes up the forms of your bankruptcy petition and schedules, and we will talk about what those questions mean. And most importantly, you ask me questions. We get to know each other. This is all part of your free consultation, and there is no set time limit. The more I know about you, the more I can help you. The more you know about me, the more you’ll know if you want to hire me. If you want to file for bankruptcy, I personally review your documents and prepare a plan and budget for you. When you come in to sign your paperwork, we review every page of it together. There is no “sign here, sign here” at my office. You sign your bankruptcy under a penalty of perjury so we both want you to make sure it is true and correct! And rest assured that at your hearing, I will be with you to guide you through the process.
I believe filing bankruptcy should be easy, it should be comfortable, you should understand how it works, and you should expect good customer service. But that’s just me.
-Fueled by San Francisco Bay Breakfast Blend Coffee