The lawyer’s presence at the 341 meeting often seems superfluous. A good 341 meeting is when the only words I utter are to enter my appearance for my client. My role is usually to remind the debtor to keep breathing and to tease them about their worries over the meeting afterward.
Yet two incidents yesterday reminded me why I’m there. I am not a potted plant: I’m the designated listener.
In one case, my client rushed to answer the trustee’s question about whether she’d owned real estate in the recent past. The client jumped in to say “No,” not having registered that the question was not, do you have real estate now, but, have you ever had real estate. I intervened, asked the question again of the debtor, and insured that the record of the 341 meeting was full and correct. Yes, she had owned real estate that was sold several years past.
The second case had the trustee asking my voluble client if anyone owed him money. Yes, he said, contradicting the schedules, and launched off on an involved narrative about his investment in oil wells and how there was a suit against the driller. I was able, with a couple of questions of the debtor, to get on the record that he was not a named party in the suit and that the entity that was a party was an investment vehicle in his IRA in which he held a fractional interest.
Again, complications headed off because, as the lawyer, with perspective on the nature of the trustee’s real interest and a familiarity with the facts, I was able to nip inconsistency in the bud and create an accurate record at the 341 meeting.
There is a reason we appear with our clients and it’s a task not to be delegated to those unfamiliar with the case.