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Life After COVID-19: Bankruptcy Attorneys Will Be Just as Swamped as They Were When the Housing Bubble Burst

published September 21, 2020

By Author - LawCrossing

( 35 votes, average: 4.1 out of 5)

What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.
Vault named Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP as one of the best bankruptcy BigLaw practices to work for in 2020. Without a doubt, they are certainly an industry leader, employing bankruptcy attorneys across the nation. They have an extremely popular bankruptcy blog as well. And just like how bankruptcy attorneys were needed by every industry as well as by individuals when the economy took a serious downturn and the housing bubble burst, life after COVID-19 will, unfortunately for many businesses and individuals, create similar circumstances.
Life After COVID-19: Bankruptcy Attorneys Will Be Just as Swamped as They Were When the Housing Bubble Burst

New Law School Graduates Considering Life as a Bankruptcy Attorney

If you’re interested in becoming a bankruptcy attorney and you’ve recently passed the bar (or you’re one of the recent law school graduates who are allowed to practice law on your honor) or maybe you’re experienced in another practice area and you were laid off or you just don’t have enough work, you’re likely wondering whether you should consider looking for a position in BigLaw, with a boutique, or if you should hang out a shingle and start your own practice.

Bankruptcy law firms
BigLaw Bankruptcy Firms. BigLaw has a lot of perks, one of those being they have a lot of practice areas…including bankruptcy. Although bankruptcy relies on federal laws, many states also have their own local laws as well. Not every state, for example, uses PACER for electronic filing. You must create the forms on your computer, save them to CD or flash drive (that you may or may get back from the court clerk so make sure that you make copies), and physically take it to the court to file the documents. If you learn that you don’t love being a bankruptcy attorney, you’ll get your feet wet in a lot of other areas. So, it’s highly likely you won’t be out of a job (barring another pandemic that requires another round of salary slashing and layoffs; unfortunately, even in the legal industry, it’s still often last one in, first one out).

On the downside, newer bankruptcy attorneys in BigLaw are often assigned tasks that they really don’t want to do. You may find yourself working on cases you hate. You may find yourself doing things you feel don’t matter. You may feel like your supervising attorney or the managing partner doesn’t trust you. BigLaw often has unreasonable billable hours as well.

Boutique Bankruptcy Law Office. A boutique bankruptcy law office is a small law office that only practices bankruptcy law. In a boutique bankruptcy law office, you would have more hands-on training on bankruptcy cases and fewer assignments and tasks that you felt didn’t matter. However, again, they only practice bankruptcy. If it turns out that you don’t enjoy bankruptcy and that you want to explore other practice areas, you would need to look for a different associate attorney opening with another firm.

Starting Your Own Bankruptcy Practice. Starting your own bankruptcy practice may be an attractive solution if you passed the bar as well as spent time working during with a bankruptcy attorney during the summer and you’re familiar with the area. However, there are many other considerations associated with starting your own bankruptcy practice:
  • Where will you office?
  • How will you build your book of business?
  • Will bankruptcy be your only practice area?
  • What about malpractice insurance?
  • In addition to paying your bar dues, will you join any other associations?
  • What about advertising?
  • What about furniture for the office?
There are a lot of small decisions (that are actually big decisions) associated with starting your own practice as a bankruptcy attorney. Each of those decisions must be guided by the ethical rules in your jurisdiction.

Experienced Attorneys Considering a Switch to Bankruptcy

Since life after COVID-19 will necessitate restructuring for many businesses as well as many individuals and families filing for bankruptcy, it can be a great way for experienced attorneys to make a difference. However, if you don’t have experience as a bankruptcy attorney, it’s natural to have questions. Here are some things you should know about switching to the bankruptcy practice area.

Representing the Creditor or the Debtor. As a bankruptcy attorney, you can represent either the creditor or the debtor. However, you could find that major creditors may be more likely to choose BigLaw or even a bankruptcy processing company to handle their claims. Smaller creditors may be more likely to work with local bankruptcy attorneys.

Learning the Ropes of Bankruptcy. If you’re experienced in other practiced areas and you’re a lateral hire into BigLaw or a boutique bankruptcy firm, you’ll learn the ropes of bankruptcy by working with and being supervised by a senior bankruptcy to:
  • Prepare and review the various court forms and schedules for the client’s bankruptcy proceeding. The forms and schedules depend on the bankruptcy chapter filed.
  • Prepare and review motions, answers, and responses to other filings used in the bankruptcy process. These motions and responses may be filed by creditors, the debtor, an interested party, or the Trustee. For example, the Trustee may file a motion to have a no asset bankruptcy turned into an asset proceeding or a chapter 7 switched to a chapter 13 or vice versa.
  • Participate in telephonic conferences with opposing counsel, your client (whether that be the debtor or the creditor), or the Trustee to discuss the bankruptcy proceeding, motions, relief requests, or other matters.
  • Depending on the type of bankruptcy filed, you may attend the 341 hearing which is also attended by the Trustee. It is also open to the creditors. It is also known as the meeting of creditors. This meeting generally occurs between 21 and 40 days after the bankruptcy is filed.
Depending on your experience, you may or may not have direct client contact. If you have little bankruptcy experience, it is likely that you will not work directly with clients. You’ll only work with your supervising attorney. Over time, you’ll likely work with clients on your own.

How to Begin to Learn More about in Bankruptcy Law. In addition to taking a job in a BigLaw environment or a boutique law firm that practices bankruptcy law, there are other options to help you begin to learn the basics of bankruptcy law. One option is to take advantage of your continuing legal education requirements. Look for webinars (given the situation with COVID-19) that fulfill your CLE requirements that focus on bankruptcy basics.

The website for the United States Courts provides Bankruptcy Basics, a page devoted to teaching the public basic information about the bankruptcy process. It explains the entire process, how the discharge works, and information about the most common bankruptcies filed. It also provides information for Trustees and Administrators, information about filing without an attorney, and additional information. The Department of Justice, which appoints bankruptcy Trustees, provides the official means test calculator for bankruptcy as well as copies of bankruptcy forms. This is useful information to have although every bankruptcy attorney uses software to prepare bankruptcy cases even if they live in jurisdiction that requires in-person filing.

And If You Want to Move Away from Being a Bankruptcy Attorney in the Future?
Consider becoming a Trustee or even a bankruptcy judge. If you’d prefer to remain an attorney, there are, of course, many other areas of law. Many bankruptcy attorneys have civil practices that handle multiple areas, particularly if they opt to hang out their own shingles (unless they open a boutique bankruptcy practice). There’s a lot you can do as a bankruptcy attorney, and with life after COVID-19, the world will certainly need you!

( 35 votes, average: 4.1 out of 5)
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