December 1 saw the roll out of new national bankruptcy forms, replacing most of the petition. The goal is to make the forms easier for non-bankruptcy folk to decipher and use.
There are appears to be some hits and misses. The prior form packet, while sparse on instructions. was pretty straightforward. A pro se debtor could take a packet, fill everything out, and probably submit the documents mostly correct. The new forms are easier to fill out, but their are now different forms for different types of debtors, so that adds a layer of complication.
Additionally, the same challenges remain - bankruptcy is more than just filing a few forms. The procedures and dangers are unchanged, and many of the pitfalls are just as easy for the unwary to stumble into. Because the forms are federal, exceptions (which are determined by the state), remain just as difficult.
Every time I have transitioned jobs, the question always came up -- why not just open your own firm? Before, it just never felt like the right time. Now, it feels like the appropriate thing to do -- it just feels right.
So what kind of firm is this going to be? First, I want to bring the level of service I have brought to my clients, both in bankruptcy and as a public defender, to my new clients in this firm. Being responsive to their needs, and aware of my clients goals. Not everyone files bankruptcy for the same reason, and its important to keep our eyes on why we're here, and where we want to be. Bankruptcy isn't an end in and of itself - its a tool to help people get back up on their feet, move on with their lives, support their families, or just get some peace and quiet. Getting rid of debt is a tool towards the larger goals.
Second, it is important to me to have good communication and get to know my clients, not just as case numbers. To be fair, I know some folk want a purely transactional relationship with their attorneys - the attorney does his job, the client does theirs, and if something happens, the attorney will call or write. But the advantage of being a small practice is having the opportunity to get to know my clients a bit better than that. Folk come to attorneys because they don't know everything, and many people don't know the right questions to ask, or think they know what they want. and omit information they think isnt important - which turns out to be important later. Communication is key.
Lastly, I want to be able to reach out to people that aren't aware of all their options. So many people labor under impossible debt loads for months (or years!) before seeking help; after all, I've never heard anyone say that the first person they talked to when they hit a rough patch was a bankruptcy attorney. But bankruptcy gives so many earnest folk powerful tools for getting their lives back, and doing it sooner than they thought possible.