Self Education: Risky Stuff for Rookie Bankruptcy Lawyer

The usual road to a good education is to seek out the best teacher or the school with the deepest resources;  you want people who know the field thoroughly to pass that knowledge on to you.  So, why is it that the field of bankruptcy law these days is overrun with lawyers trying to pick up bankruptcy law on their own and on the fly?

Maybe’s it’s the American, can-do attitude or our admiration for the self taught.  I’m proud to have taught myself to cook and sew, both skills that I excel at.  But teaching yourself to practice bankruptcy law isn’t the same.  When I botch a new recipe or cooking technique, I can discard my mistake.  I can’t do that when I miss an issue in a client’s bankruptcy case.

Maybe it’s the economic times.  Traditional legal jobs are hard to come by and lots of newly fledged lawyers are fending for themselves, at a time when there is huge demand bankruptcy lawyers.  Supply, meet demand.

Maybe it has something to do with being lawyers:  we have a license that stands for law school survival and trial by fire in the form of the bar exam.  We figure if we could do that, we’re genuinely capable of anything. (Isn’t that an S on our undershirt?)  We forget that it took at least three years of study to hit those benchmarks:  they didn’t turn us loose on the citizenry after a semester of  organized study.

But, it’s worth repeating that line:  we have a license. And we want to keep it.  We have an ethical duty to be competent.  We have a duty to our clients to leave them better off for our representation.  Fail that test and find another line of work.

So, if the field is new to you, don’t be gulled into thinking “it’s just filling out forms”.  It’s as complex as people’s lives, relentless creditors, and  obtuse statutes.  It’s bankruptcy law.

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  • Karen

    Thank you for the great article. I have been practicing for 17 years and am expanding my practice into the Bankruptcy area. I have done as much self study as I can and I am looking for a good online and/or cd course that I can take. Are you aware of any in the District of Central California

  • Funny you should ask See the announcement of my on line Fundamentals class in the members tab of this web site.

    Cathy

  • Monique

    THANK YOU! I have been afraid to take a bk case because bk is all new to me. Yes, I’ve been practicing for ten years, but not in bk court. Friends have told me “oh just jump in” and in some ways, I agree, fear is not my friend. BUT just buying practice guides or joining NACBA is not enough; I don’t want to commit malpractice, I want to help my clients ethically and well. So thanks!

  • Between this blog and the Fundamentals Course, I’ll try to ease your way into bankruptcy. If you have time, go sit in on a confirmation calendar, a law and motion calendar, a 341 hearing, and get the flavor of the issues and the personalities involved. See who comes prepared and look for a mentor or a study-buddy among those in the courtroom.

    Don’t get discouraged when there always seem to be new issues. That’s what makes this field rewarding.