The debtor’s attorney had him input the schedules through a subscription “bankruptcy interview” website, printed them out in his office and had the debtor sign them, apparently without change. The client got all the downside of self representation but with the cost of a bankruptcy lawyer. The trustee got apoplexy. I got a consult with the now-imperiled non filing spouse.
The trustee and I shared the reaction shown above.
The debtor didn’t list the corporate family business as an asset, showed no household income for the past three years, and made no mention of the non filing wife’s corporate business. Now, I see a fair number of my questionnaires come back from clients with the same sort of omissions and misunderstandings. But the schedules don’t get filed that way.
One of the double checks in my office, where my partner and paralegals take the laboring oar in petition preparation, consists of a review of the draft filing against my notes of the initial consultation with the client and my memo to staff that follows that initial meeting. Despite all of our verbal explanation and written instructions, we get questionnaires back that omit gobs of the stuff I identified as issues in the first place. So, draft in hand, we set out to expand, correct, and complete the client’s input.
I’m sure that shifting the typing to the client is cost effective, in the short run. But as we’ve said here, again and again, bankruptcy representation involves more than filing out forms. It’s a two level skill set: the first is knowing what goes in each slot in the schedules. The second is knowing what the implications of that information is when filtered through the bankruptcy code.