Why you should want your competition to become better bankruptcy lawyers

Sounds counter intuitive, doesn’t it? It should be easier to be a stand out if all the bankruptcy lawyers around you are Lilliputians.

Yet I second Jay Fleischman’s wish for more good bankruptcy lawyers around me.  And I think that the attitude I’ve encountered among some newcomers to the field, that they won’t share anything with their competition, is shortsighted and self defeating.

Here’s my slant on why I want my competitors to be better lawyers:

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

The better the quality of bankruptcy lawyers in courtrooms, day after day, the easier it is to convince judges that consumer bankruptcy law is a specialty, that it calls for a wide range of legal and personal skills, and it ought to be better compensated.  Schlocky practice all around,  and the profession looks like losers and left overs.  That’s not where I want to be.

Better Lawyers Put Out Less Trash

I don’t mean better lawyers are environmentally more correct;  it’s not that they recycle more.  I mean that my life is easier, not harder, if the information promulgated in person and in the media to the public is accurate.  Better lawyers don’t believe you can do even a simple Chapter 7 for $400.  My pricing looks rational, if those around me aren’t irrational.

The Public Is Better Served By More Competent Lawyers

A compelling reason I started this site and the companion bankruptcy education products was that the lay public was endangered by the incompetent and opportunistic bankruptcy lawyers I saw around me.  My law partner and I agreed that we either needed to teach our competitors to be better lawyers, or we needed to run them out of the practice, for the sake of the public they were victimizing.

Better Bankruptcy Lawyers Make Better Conversation

I’ve written before about how, in the process of teaching bankruptcy law,  I see something I didn’t see before, or solidified the context in which some legal principle works.  Better bankruptcy lawyers and I have someone to brainstorm with.

When I first started bankruptcy practice, there was no one to bounce ideas off of.  I knew of only one program given annually that dealt with what I did day to day, in the kind of depth that I needed.  Now, I have listserves and my brainstorming buddies, Doug, Fredrick, and Wayne ( who doesn’t have a website because he’s too busy being a crackerjack bankruptcy lawyer)  who will test my ideas and provide new ones.

One of my first local bankruptcy classes gave rise to a newbie bankruptcy lawyer list-serve created by Jeena Cho.  Jeena acted on the serendipitous  finding that each of the newbies at that table knew something about the practice that  the others didn’t. By pooling their knowledge, they each became better bankruptcy lawyers faster.  None of them appear to have suffered competitively from sharing.

So, my call to the bankruptcy bar is to remember this is a profession, share what you know, and encourage the competition.  It will make you and the profession stronger.

Image courtesy of Susie In France.

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  • Mitch

    Sharing information helps us all. We learn from each other and keep the creditors and their attorneys honest.

  • Anonymous

    Absolutely.  But further, my competitor’s gain is not (necessarily) my loss. This is not a zero sum game.

  • Thanks Cathy for the mention. I’ve found the newbie group as well as NACBA listservs to be a wonderful way to share information and learn from each other. I would not have learned nor advanced as far as I have without the generous contribution from listserv members. The newbie list has been great because even “newbies” have information that is helpful to the other members. I consider it something of “paying it forward.” 

    I also agree with Cathy that helping each other become better attorneys helps all of us. We should not be competing with each other in a race to the bottom to do bankruptcy for “$400.” That really hurts all of us – the Debtor’s Bar and the clients. Everyday, I am amazed at how complicated and perplex bankruptcy law is and it’s definitely not about filling out the forms.