The Importance of Experienced Counsel in Bankruptcy Cases
Let’s start with the likelihood of success of a debtor filing a pro se Chapter 13 bankruptcy case. It’s virtually zero. There is almost no chance of success. This is based on regular reports from Chapter 13 trustees around the country.
But suppose you retain a Chapter 13 lawyer. Does that mean you will definitely succeed with your case? Not necessarily. A debtor’s success with a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is still not assured merely because you are being represented by counsel.
What’s most important in having a successful Chapter 13 case is the competence and ability of the debtor’s attorney, the attorney’s understanding of the law, and his or her appreciation of the responsibilities and obligations of the attorney-client relationship in bankruptcy cases.
These were the comments of my colleague, bankruptcy attorney William J. McLeod, who spoke at a consumer bankruptcy seminar in Boston this afternoon which was attended by several hundred bankruptcy attorneys from across the Northeast. Bill is the author of a great little resource book for bankruptcy attorneys, Chapter 13 in 13 Chapters .
The Bankruptcy Battleground is Constantly Changing Whether It’s Chapter 7 or Chapter 13
Here’s why having experienced counsel is so important. Practicing bankruptcy law is in essence like shooting a moving target. The rules are constantly changing, the law is constantly changing, and the bankruptcy court’s interpretation of the law is also constantly changing.
What a debtor might be able to get away with one month can be shot done the next month, and visa-versa.
For example, last month I wrote about a bombshell decision from Long Island Bankruptcy Court Judge Dorothy T. Eisenberg who had just come down with a decision permitting Chapter 7 debtors to cram-down second mortgages. (Chapter 7 Cram-Down of Second Mortgages ). Obtaining this relief was previously impossible in the Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of New York.
My office quickly seized on this new avenue of legal relief, and we are now helping a number of clients to eliminate their second mortgages in Chapter 7 cases.
However, most attorneys still do not even know about this new decision as the Judge delivered it with no fanfare or other formal announcement. To my surprise, the Judge didn’t even mention it at a recent bankruptcy seminar.
I learned about it because I regularly read every new bankruptcy court decision that comes out of the Long Island Bankruptcy Court. I asked the judge why she didn’t mention the decision at the seminar and she said that she assumed all bankruptcy counsel regularly read the new case decisions.
Having experienced bankruptcy counsel is necessary to properly evaluate a potential bankruptcy filing, develop an appropriate bankruptcy strategy, and then communicate with the clients so that they understand how the bankruptcy case will work.
Debtor’s Counsel Plays an Integral Role in the Bankruptcy Process
When you have questions about your bankruptcy, you call your bankruptcy attorney.
When creditors have a question or concern, they call debtor’s bankruptcy attorney.
When trustees file a motion to dismiss, it is debtor’s bankruptcy counsel who must respond, appear and when appropriate, defend the matter in bankruptcy court.
Without any doubt, debtor’s counsel plays an integral role in the bankruptcy process.
Bottom Line: If you want to make sure your bankruptcy case is successful and that you get the maximum amount of debt relief the the bankruptcy laws afford you, use a competent and experienced bankruptcy attorney.
When a client comes in to meet with one of my Long Island bankruptcy attorneys  or me, they can be assured of getting personal attention and up-to-date bankruptcy advice, based on our experience and knowledge.