Bankruptcy cases in our offices have a relatively short life span and our involvement in our client’s life ends soon.
When the case is over, do you dissect the case and evaluate what went right and not-so-right?
Greg Lambert, one of the authors of 3 Geeks and a LawBlog, suggested that firms conduct an After Action Review of a case, as his unit had done in the Army for field maneuvers.
Five questions were on the table:
- What was our mission?
- What actually happened?
- Why was there a difference?
- What have we learned?
- What will we do about it?
As staff in a 1000 lawyer firm, he contemplates a meeting of the lawyers involved and an examination of the project and the outcome. He called for an autopsy without blame.
For most consumer bankruptcy lawyers, these meetings could be held in the shower in the morning. But the exercise, though lonely, is no less valuable.
What went well in the case? Were there interview questions that elicited hitherto undisclosed facts? What did you miss in preparing the schedules? In preparing the client? Was there some bit of lore that should have been communicated to the client in advance?
Case in point
A case in my office this week took an unexpected turn when assets that could not be exempted turned up, after we had filed an emergency. My initial interview with the client and spouse had focused on how to protect a substantial piece of real estate that was both home and a source of retirement income.
Post petition, I saw other assets that couldn’t be exempted if we were to save the property.
Ouch! My bad.
If I’d seen this sooner, we might have been able to spend down or otherwise reconfigure the non exempt asset. Maybe not, but I’m chagrined not to have seen it and discussed it with the client sooner.
This case isn”t over, but I’ve already done an after action review and am revising our intake procedures so these issues surface sooner rather than later.