Since the Fundamentals of Bankruptcy course came out, I’ve talked with a number of new bankruptcy attorneys who report that they are waiting for later offerings, since they’ve already filed a number of petitions and feel they have that aspect of the practice down pat. One lawyer reported that he had filed 10 cases, so was missing nothing on this subject. While that could be true, somehow I doubt it.
As I worked on developing the course, I found myself seeing new aspects of the schedules, figuring out where “the law” on any subject was found, and asking myself “what is it that I know about this issue that you don’t find in books?” There’s a reason that California offers triple continuing education credit to presenters: it’s an education to be an educator.
I also know from working with a couple of rookie bankruptcy lawyers that I mentor face to face that, a year into meeting regularly and having me mark up their draft petitions, they still don’t always get the petition right, much less get client issues that I can elicit in conversation included in the schedules.
The practice of bankruptcy law looks deceptively simple: there are official forms, sometimes official instructions, and there are software programs where you just fill in the data fields. Piece of cake, some think.
I think not. Extracting information from clients is like peeling onions, layer by layer. Recognizing that information for what it is and how it fits into the schedules, and seeing the Chapter 5 implications, is part of the basic bankruptcy lawyer tool kit. You have to keep adding to the tool kit and maintaining the tools you have.
Perhaps the most important tool is humility about what one knows about the field. The surface of the water looks smooth, sometimes, but the depth of the pool is surprising.
Welcome to consumer bankruptcy.
Image courtesy, I think, of Jenny at http://www.piqs.de/fotos/1443.html