After you’ve gasped and giggled at the misleading bankruptcy information spotlighted here earlier, there is a serious point here: this sort of tripe creates real work for bankruptcy lawyers and a very real trap for clients.
Incomplete, overstated, inaccurate stuff about bankruptcy is all over the web, authored by apparently knowledgeable sources. Your prospects read this stuff as if it was gospel. How often does a client tell you “I researched bankruptcy on the internet”?
As a bankruptcy lawyer, you need to consider how you flush out and counter the misinformation and mistaken assumptions that a new client brings with them to the initial meeting. If you don’t, the information you get to complete the schedules may be, quite innocently, just plain wrong.
Your new client may have read and accepted something like this:
It is not required in all states to use the “Cash on hand” property type on Schedule B. However, if it is required in your state, make sure the cash on hand amount you list reflects the money left over AFTER the debtor has paid their allowable expenses (rent, mortgage, car, groceries, etc.) as well as their attorney fee.
Listen as the client talks for clues that they’ve gathered information before they met with you: family, web, other lawyers. Follow up to see what they think they already know. Recite the ground rules as you know them: list everything, valuable or not. List what you have today. Ask open ended questions: “anything else?”
At the top of the page in my questionnaire for clients to take and complete is the admonition: list it or lose it.
Often a client will have information that dates to before BAPCPA, either from their experiences or those of family or friends. It’s worth pointing out that the rules have changed, and the consequences of not following the rules have too.
An unrelated benefit of listening closely to the client is that you build trust and teamwork. But that’s a topic for another day.
Along the same lines:
♦ Image courtesy of Forever 27