My call to the inept bankruptcy practitioners to get better or get out spawned some surprising push back.
I spoke bluntly about what I saw as harm to the public from less than competent or committed bankruptcy attorneys.
Most reaction was supportive: A trustee wanted to use the piece for a presentation he was making; another lawyer asked to reprint it. Many simply added their voice to my call.
But I got two very heated, negative responses.
The Arrogance Of A Helping Hand
The first is easier to understand: this reader thought I was arrogant. I suppose he finds arrogance in my willingness to name the performances I saw as sub par and to protest publicly when client cases are dismissed for the lawyer’s failings. Should that offend? What obligates us to sit by in silence?
It does make me wonder what that attorney, a certified specialist in consumer bankruptcy law, is doing to help people in his area become better at their craft. Does he sit with practitioners and assist in the crafting of plans? Does he educate his colleagues about new developments in the law?
I suspect that he does nothing, sitting idly by as the next generation of bankruptcy lawyers circles the drain with their hapless clients in tow.
To this lawyer I say, “If you’re not helping, get out of the way of those who do.”
Scheming For Someone’s Clients
The second retort was more disturbing in some ways. The reader attributed the observed incompetence to competition among lawyers that ran counter, he thought, to the idea of a profession.
He saw my criticism as being borne of a desire to take the bumbler’s clients, and contended that as profession we should be circling the wagons around the less-stellar members and nurturing them.
After all, he claimed, we are a profession, not a business.
This lawyers doesn’t know me personally, nor does he know my firm. He has no sense of whether we’re booked solid or begging for business.
I personally find it reprehensible for a professional to speak poorly of another attorney with the intent to steal his or her clients. And you certainly can’t make the case that I’m confronting those lawyers who sparked this dialogue with an eye on their clients because, like at most CLE presentations, the people who could really benefit aren’t reading here.
Most disturbing in this angry comment was the unstated proposition that we, as a profession, should be protecting the least among us from criticism or consequence of their ineptitude. Reminds me of the conspiracy-of-silence charge against professions, where no member of the profession can be found to testify for the victim of the defendant professional.
Yes, this is a profession. One dedicated not only to profit but to assisting people who need it most. By coddling those who bumble through in the face of proffered education, we are allowing them to sacrifice the best interests of their clients at the altar of their profit. And that, gentle reader, is abhorrent.
Part of being a profession is having a duty to the calling as well as to the client.
A Call To Action
The experienced attorneys need to take up the mantle, make themselves available to mentor, and point out educational opportunities for inexperienced bankruptcy attorneys. Immediately.
In my local case, the bench and the trustee’s office had labored mightily to educate the bar on the new procedures. The local bar associations and the Bankruptcy Forum run classes all over California.
The National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys runs two programs each year. The American Bankruptcy Institute puts on many programs, some of them dedicated to consumer issues.
I offer educational opportunities, both live and online. So do other lawyers and private groups, some of them excellent.
A lawyer who remains clueless in the face of such educational opportunities should be pointed in the right direction. If he or she fails to get the hint, permission to practice before the bankruptcy court should be revoked. It may sound harsh, but we are a helping profession; a failure to help is a danger to those we are here to protect.
What do you think? As a profession, what should be our attitude be toward the less competent? As a specialty within a profession, are the rules in bankruptcy practice any different?
Image courtesy of Steve Snodgrass.