By H. David Cox
Owner, Cox Law Group PLLC
The Goal of a Chapter 7
For many, Chapter 7 bankruptcy provides a second chance. Little offers more comfort to clients than the idea of getting to start over when they find themselves in what would otherwise seem to be an inescapable predicament. Clients often feel trapped and suffocated by their debt regardless of whether the problems arose from their own missteps or matters beyond their control.
The most rewarding aspect of practicing consumer bankruptcy is the opportunity to almost always offer clients some level of relief. While the extent of that help and assistance depends on a number of factors in each specific case, the goal of the Chapter 7 bankruptcy is for the client to emerge from the process with the most relief possible from his or her debts.
Working with the Client and Managing Client Expectations
The attorney must work closely with the client to prepare accurate and complete schedules and shepherd him or her through the Chapter 7 process, hearings, and deadlines to maximize the client’s chances of obtaining the debt relief sought by the petition. Equally important to a successful representation of the client, however, is the attorney’s role in appropriately setting and managing the client’s expectations about the process and the level of debt relief they will receive.
The Role of the Client
The client’s role in the initial meetings as well as throughout the process should not be passive. A client’s natural embarrassment about his or her circumstances leading to the bankruptcy consultation can result in the client being less forthcoming during the initial interview. For this reason, I devote a significant amount of time attempting to put the client at ease with more simple, conversational questions and comments at the start of any new client consultation. It is critical to have the client focused on the attorney’s questions and freely divulging information in response, as opposed to the more natural tendency to withhold certain embarrassing facts.
- The goal of a Chapter 7 filing is to help the client emerge from the process with as much debt relief as possible.
- Take the time to train staff and build the office procedures that will limit the risk of complications in bankruptcy.
- Be mindful that you may need to tailor your normal process to meet the needs and expectations of particular clients.
- You must not only work with the client to obtain the information needed to complete documentation and get through the process, but you must also be sure to set and manage the client’s expectations about the process.
- Provide potential clients with a questionnaire to fill out prior to their initial meeting with you as well as a checklist of documents that may be needed to ensure they have all relevant information with them for their consultation.
- In initial meetings with your client, try to first put them at ease with more conversational questions and comments. The more comfortable they are with you, the more freely they will divulge important information to you.
This article is an excerpt from Chapter 7 Consumer Bankruptcy Strategies, 2014 ed. This excerpt was provided by Aspatore Law Books, part of Thomson Reuters. Aspatore books were originally created for a legal professional audience, but have since become popular with non-attorneys thanks to easy-to-understand writing and smart, real-world insights. You can find the entire book available for purchase on the Thomson Reuters Legal Solutions website by clicking the book title linked above.