If you’re like me, you got into the field of consumer bankruptcy law without any illusions about making millions of dollars a year. We all know our clients can’t afford to pay enormous legal fees – after all, if they had a ton of cash, it’s likely they wouldn’t be filing for bankruptcy in the first place.
The problem, however, is that the level of work involved in even the simplest Chapter 13 bankruptcy case is so extreme as to make it unprofitable for even the most efficient consumer bankruptcy lawyer.
Yet we look on the other side of the fence at the mortgage servicer attorneys and counsel for other creditors, only to see them wearing custom-made suits and pondering their next exotic vacation. $1,000 an hour isn’t unheard of in creditor circles, yet we’re defending the rights of honest consumers for chump change.
Over the past five years we’ve had to contend with an ever-expanding laundry list of document requests, disclosures, and assorted hoops to jump through just to get our clients’ plans confirmed.
And after confirmation, the hits keep coming – cratering plans require modification, conversion or outright hardship discharges.
The foreclosure problem leads to an endless string of motions for relief from the automatic stay. Proofs of Claims are woefully deficient.
It’s enough to make you want to reconsider the whole idea of practicing Chapter 13.
Who’s Going To Pay For All This?
In the old days we were taught that we would get paid an honest day’s wage for an honest day’s work. That seemed reasonable enough, as it provided a sense of equity and fairness to our business lives. Work hard, get good results, and you’ll earn a living wage. Nothing fancy, just a good living that’s enough to support yourself and your loved ones.
But somewhere along the way, someone forgot to tell the bankruptcy courts about this expectation. Even if our clients could pay for our services, most courts have come up with no-look fees in Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases. These fees lock us into a presumptively fair flat fee for what is considered “standard” work. And in theory, it’s a fine idea because it provides stability for both the lawyer and the client.
In the real world, however, the no-look fee is a travesty. We can’t charge a flat fee that reasonably reflects the amount of work we think we’re going to need to do on a case. So we invariably cut corners.
It makes us look for ways to settle motions without having to do the hard work involved in mounting an opposition.
We tend to look the other way when a Proof of Claim comes into the office unless it’s so egregious as to beg for action. And then we approach the begrudgingly, knowing full well that there’s no way we’re ever going to get paid for the work we’re doing.
Lucy And Ethel Would Be Appalled.
Many of us end up taking the no-look fee and, in turn, do the bare minimum amount of work necessary to get the case through to confirmation. If it craters later on, we do whatever we can to make it go away or move forward as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.
Get ’em filed, get ’em confirmed, get ’em done. Anything else takes more time – time for which we will never be compensated.
Like Lucy and Ethel in the chocolate factory, we’re forced to bring in more and more Chapter 13 clients to keep the wheels turning. And the more clients we need, the more we fall behind. Clients get the short end of the stick, we end up doing forced pro bono work (as opposed to taking on causes in which we firmly believe), and the conveyor belt keeps chugging along.
Art imitates life, I suppose.
How To Get Paid In Chapter 13.
You deserve to be able to make a living doing Chapter 13 bankruptcy work. And your clients deserve your full attention.
Luckily, we can help. On Monday, March 21, 2011 at 8:00pm Eastern time (that’s 5:00pm on the West Coast) Cathy Moran and I, Jay Fleischman, will be holding a special 2-hour event that we’re modestly calling, How To Use Fee Applications To Get Paid What You’re Worth In Chapter 13 So You Don’t Go Broke Saving The World. If you know Cathy and I well, you know that the title was entirely my idea. I hope you’ll excuse the flowery prose, but I didn’t have time to come up with a punchier name for the workshop.
During this intense workshop Cathy and I will teach you:
- How consumer lawyers face an uphill battle when the court talks about money – and why
- When court approval of legal fees is needed
- The rules of the road – Code, Rules, local practices and the retainer agreement
- How to explain your fees to clients in a way that makes them want you to get paid as much as possible
- Easy tools for timekeeping
- How to use the no-look fee to your advantage
- What goes into a successful fee application
- Approval of fees in the absence of a formal fee application
- Getting your judges to recognize your value
- Opportunities for legal fees outside of the formal fee application
We’ll be providing a variety of written materials as well, including a sample retainer agreement, fee applications and proposed orders for you to adapt and use in your practice.
And at the end of the call, we’ll have a formal Q&A session so you can get all of your concerns addressed.
Learn On Monday, Get Paid On Tuesday.
Lots of seminars and workshops offer the veiled promise of making back your investment, but this time you can look at your participation as money in the bank. You will get enough in the way of actionable information and forms that you’ll be able to get moving immediately on your fee applications.
Armed with the knowledge necessary to be successful, there’s no reason why you won’t be able to immediately be able to turn around and start increasing your bottom line.
That’s why your investment in this workshop is nominal. For only $297 – less than the value of two hours of your time – you’ll get everything you need in order to start making more money in Chapter 13 so you can serve your clients better.
Can’t Make It Live? No Worries – The Workshop Will Be Recorded.
We realize that you may have other obligations and can’t make it to the workshop. To make it easier on you, we’re going to make an audio version of the workshop available to you within 24 hours of the end of the program. That means you can sign up, go about your life, and still get all the knowledge and information at your convenience.
My No-Nonsense, 100% Money-Back Guarantee.
Sign up for the course and join us for the program. If you sit through the entire program from start to finish and don’t understand something that was covered just let me know. We’ll talk by phone to work through your specific problem. If after talking it still doesn’t “click” for you then I will gladly refund every single dime you’ve paid for the course without any hassle or problem.
Why am I giving you such a strong guarantee? Because I’ll do my best to help you. If I can’t help then I don’t want your money.