“In the 12-month period ending in June 2011, almost a third of debtors who without legal counsel sought the relief and the discharge of debts available in chapter 7 failed. For those who failed, there is no relief. For those who failed, there is no fresh start.” – Chief Judge Frank J. Bailey, US Bankruptcy Court, District of Massachusetts
On Tuesday, November 15th, the Boston Bar Association will host Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Pro Bono Volunteer Lawyer Training: Representing a Pro Bono Debtor. To better understand the scope of the program and why volunteers are needed, we turned to the Chief Judge of the Bankruptcy Court Frank J. Bailey, who provided us with the following:
“As our communities, our state and the country continues to struggle with unemployment, cost of living, and the challenging economy as whole, many of our most vulnerable and most desperate citizens are turning to bankruptcy for protection and relief. And more and more of our experienced attorneys are struggling with not only this increased need, but also the unique and special circumstances that bankruptcy debtors face. The number of capable and experienced bankruptcy attorneys who can assist indigent debtors is outweighed by the demand of our most indigent citizens.
Many debtors are faced with painful decisions that affect their homes and their families. Some of the biggest mistakes made by debtors who choose to file without an attorney is to assume that obtaining bankruptcy protection is as simple as completing a few forms. While correctly completing these forms is essential to the process, there are many considerations that a debtor must undertake before they put pen to paper. Not appreciating those considerations or being unaware of them can lead a debtor into a legal process that could be riddled with regret. What might have been viewed as an innocent transfer of property may later be claimed as a fraudulent transfer. A misunderstanding of the scope of available exemptions may cause a debtor to lose property that they can least afford to lose. And debtors who do not understand the consequences of pre-bankruptcy conduct may expose themselves to a host of potentially avoidable consequences.
In the 12-month period ending in June 2011, almost a third of debtors who without legal counsel sought the relief and the discharge of debts available in chapter 7 failed. For those who failed, there is no relief. For those who failed, there is no fresh start.
The Bankruptcy Court believes that access to the relief, the protections and the fresh start afforded by the United States Bankruptcy Code should be available to all citizens regardless of their income and their ability to afford expert advice from an attorney.
The Pro Bono Volunteer Training by the Boston Bar Association is an excellent opportunity for attorneys to hone their bankruptcy skills, and an opportunity for those attorneys interested in bankruptcy to learn the basic and most important steps in advising and representing a debtor in Chapter 7. Attorneys from all practice areas should consider this training as an opportunity to learn about the process, and learn more about how they can assist those who are most in need.”