David A. Russo
Herman & Russo, P.C.
“I don’t want to be here”, “I never would have believed in million years that I’d be filing bankruptcy” or
“I can’t believe this is happening to me…”
These are all statements that we hear from most, if not all, of our new bankruptcy clients. Bewilderment, dismay and disbelief are all common emotions that are associated with the majority of bankruptcy filings that we have seen in the past several years. Probably the main reason for this set of emotions is that most of the filings lately are driven by external factors such as loss of income or increased interest rates, and not be the actions of the client. This shock of having to consider filing bankruptcy is also often coupled with a feeling that although the world economy is bad, that the client is alone in their trouble.
Client’s fears and embarrassment about speaking to others regarding their financial situation often delays or prevents them from contacting a bankruptcy attorney, which can compound problems. Overcoming fears, reluctance and other psychological hurdles is usually a large part of the initial consultation. One of the best ways that we have found to address the client’s feelings of being alone in bad financial situation is through the use of filing statistics and celebrity bankruptcy filers. Abraham Lincoln is pretty good company.
According to the US Courts website (www.uscourts.gov) bankruptcy filings for 2009 were 31.9% higher than 2008. This number often doesn’t resonate with clients, thus putting it into the perspective that in 2008 and 2009 in the Northern District of Georgia, (where Herman & Russo is located) that there were over 126,000 bankruptcies filed. This figure is equivalent to the population of Ft. Collins, CO, or closer to home, roughly that of Savannah, GA (pop.130,000).
Providing a frame of reference as to how many people have filed for bankruptcy is only part of the challenge in
overcoming a client’s feeling of being alone. Another helpful tool is explaining that it is partly the role of the attorney that they choose is to assist them through the process and that they are alongside them in this unfamiliar territory as well as being their advocate. This is where extensive experience in the practice of bankruptcy is very reassuring.
The last piece of the puzzle for putting people at ease regarding feeling alone in bankruptcy often doesn’t occur until the actual Meeting of Creditors hearing, also known as a “341 hearing”. In most districts with the dramatic increase of filings, hearing rooms are packed or overflowing. Upon seeing a swarm of people at the 341 Hearing, any last feelings of being alone are often swept away.
Unfortunately, there are no quick and easy ways to dispense with the fear of being alone in the bankruptcy process. The reality of increased filings nationwide, the expanding demographics of bankruptcy filers, and crowded hearing rooms are all objective pieces of information, but ultimately a good relationship between the client and attorney is the foundation for putting a lot of fears in the bankruptcy process to rest.
By, David A. Russo, Herman & Russo, P.C.