What’s Hardest Part Of Being New To Bankruptcy?

How about we reverse the flow of information here and you tell me what the most difficult aspect of being an inexperienced bankruptcy lawyer is?

What kinds of issues are hardest to get help with?

What facts have eluded you in interviewing clients?

What is the biggest challenge in your practice today?

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  • The issues that are hardest to get help with are those that don’t come up every day. Often times the facts about business assets get missed in an initial client interview. The biggest challenge in our practice today is making sure we are being selective and utilizing our resources to maximize the results for our clients.

    • Hate to tell you, but those sound like the challenges in my practice too. Perhaps the single most effective thing to make sure you have the whole picture is to cross check initial consult notes with the draft schedules and the tax return. Those three sources will often help you locate assets and issues that the client wasn’t forthcoming about.

      Cathy

  • I struggle with the subject of reaffirmations of auto loans. If a Ch 7 client wants to be sure to keep his car, what’s the best way in our district? The last one I had the loan company sent me a reaff agreement and I tried the “send it back with client signature but nothing else” method and they wouldn’t accept it. What was I to do then? In this case enough time intervened that my client got his discharge and the case was closed before I sent the agreement with everything filled in including my signature, and of course they wouldn’t accept it and suggested I reopen the case etc. I haven’t done anything about it. Current case – Ford Credit hasn’t sent a reaff agreement and it’s now two weeks past the 341 date. What should I do?

    As you can see, I’m pretty puzzled by this whole subject.

    • Cathy Moran, Esq.

      The “best”way is to get a timely reaffirmation agreement on file that shows that reaffirming isn’t an undue hardship. That’s often difficult on the numbers. This starts with the I and J budget which needs to show there is money to make the payment. It helps if the unpaid balance on the loan isn’t so large that a later default would be crippling.

      But maybe the better solution is to sign and file the reaff in the expectation that the court will not approve and that the cases that say that pay and drive survives if the debtor is willing to reaffirm. See this piece I wrote for Bankruptcy Law Network http://www.bankruptcylawnetwork.com/2010/10/10/lose-in-court-drive-happily-into-sunset/

      Cathy

      • Thanks, Cathy. A few questions about that.

        1. If I sign the reaff, will the judge review it and possibly not approve (as you suggest)? I thought that would only happen if I (as atty) didn’t sign.

        2. What should I do if the car loan company doesn’t send me a reaff agreement. Ask them for one? Or get one of my own from somewhere, get it completed and signed, and send it to them?

  • Gus

    The hardest part: going to bed every night thinking there is something you might have not considered in the case you were working on today.

  • Bernard Pang

    Dear Cathy,

    The hardest part about being a new bankruptcy attorney is finding the law on my own. I’ve been reading your blog entries. Everytime I read it, I learn something new, but it also scares me because it raised many more questions. I know, or at least I think I know, how to fill the forms and prepare the payment plan. I know, or at least I think I know, what the means test is, how to treat secured/unsecured properties, etc. Those are things I can predict, so I’m not as worried about them. What I don’t know is how to respond to special circumstances. What if the creditor raises some weird objections to the payment plan that I have not even heard of? Where do I go to look for the legal authority? What do I read? What are the court procedures? I wish someone could give me a list and tell me “these are all the books you’ll need. You can find all your answers here.” I know that’s silly, but even if I can’t find 100% of the answers on my own, I want to be able to do that 90% of the times.

    I also agree with Gus above, who wrote that it’s “going to bed every night thinking there is something you might have not considered in the case you were working on today.” I want to know where the major traps and pitfalls are; on what part I should be especially careful, etc.

    Thank you.

    • Cathy Moran, Esq.

      At some level, I’m glad that you recognize that all isn’t as simple as it can appear on the surface. That sensibility is far more likely to make you a good bankruptcy lawyer than the utter cocksureness of some rookies.

      If you’ll foregive a war story, I went into practice directly from law school with a law school classmate. We found space in a marvelous building where 9 lawyers shared space, so we had built in mentors.

      Everytime we got an opposition in a matter, we panicked. We assumed we’d missed something, that there was knowledge out there that we had missed and that the sky was falling. After the panic subsided, we’d analyze the opposition and , more often than not, it was ***l ***t.

      What I learned was not to assume that my opponent was right, even if more experienced. Lawyers generally insist on finding something to say, even if not well reasoned or supported by the law.

      Your mission is to find a mid point between humility and fear on one hand, and confidence and energy on the other. It gets easier with time.

      • Bernard

        You’re very right. That feeling of panic is one that I often experience when I handle new cases. I will keep your advices about balancing humility and confidence in mind. Thank you.