Bankruptcy is Complicated

Written by Charleston Bankruptcy Lawyer, Russell A. DeMott

Bankruptcy is complicated.  And bankruptcy law has changed radically over the last few years. I see this in my Charleston area practice every day, and all this makes me think of how different practicing bankruptcy is now, compared to fifteen years ago when I started practicing law.

Because of the demands of of keeping up with the law, we have annual seminars as part of our South Carolina Bankruptcy Law Association (SCBLA).  And we just had our 20th annual seminar this past weekend.  I’m happy to report that all of our South Carolina Bankruptcy Lawyer Blog authors attended, except one.  (He had a really good excuse–a family obligation he could not miss which involved his children.)

To be sure, we all had a good time.  But while having a good time socializing is a nice benefit of the annual seminar, we all go to learn.  It’s a time to interact with our three South Carolina bankruptcy judges, those present from the United States Trustee’s office, the panel trustees (the Chapter 7 and 13 trustees), and other bankruptcy lawyers.

As of May, I’ve practiced law fifteen years after serving as a law clerk to a state court judge in Michigan.  I “cut my teeth” as a young lawyer by doing court-appointed criminal defense.  I also did plenty of family law–and I have the gray hair to prove it.  Since beginning my practice, I’ve also practiced bankruptcy law.  I began to reflect on how these areas of practice are so different from each other.

Criminal defense is all about the facts (who was where when, what they possessed, their intent, what witnesses saw, and so on).  Family law is–no surprise–all about the emotions, which is why it’s such a draining area of law in which to practice.  Bankruptcy, by contrast, is largely about the law.  Many times, the facts are not in dispute.  It’s about what this case means, what can be claimed on the means test, or how to interpret a statute, to give just a few examples.  And it’s often complicated.

Because bankruptcy is so complicated, the need for competent representation is critical.  Reading things online–including the material on this blog–can be helpful.  Ultimately, however, if you have financial problems, you need a bankruptcy lawyer.  Without one, you’ll end up knowing enough to be dangerous.  I see this with potential clients who call and begin discussing the means test and how they “passed” or “failed.”  What they don’t understand is that the means test is implimented very differently in South Carolina than it is in, say, California.

Bankruptcy offers enormous benefits to the “honest but unfortunate debtor.”  But to get the full benefits of bankruptcy, you need to get the help of a qualified bankruptcy lawyer.

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Russell A. DeMott is a bankruptcy lawyer practicing in the Charleston, South Carolina area. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1993. While in law school, Russ served as a law clerk to Robert F. (“Bob”) Anderson in Columbia. Bob Anderson is a Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee and, according to Bob, has taught Russ everything he knows.

During his clerkship with Bob Anderson, Russ also worked with fellow SC Bankruptcy Blog member Däna Wilkinson who now practices in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Russ still considers Däna a good friend and mentor. Unbeknownst to Bob Anderson, Russ also learned a lot about bankruptcy law from Däna.

Russ also served as a staff editor and the research editor for The South Carolina Law Review during law school.

For the first two years after law school, Russ clerked for the Honorable Harry A. Beach, circuit court judge in Allegan, Michigan. Russ says of Judge Beach: “Judge Beach was the epitome of an outstanding judge. He had both knowledge and wisdom. He treated lawyers and litigants with respect and always tried to be fair to both sides. It was an honor to have started my career as his law clerk. Judge Beach is now retired, and he is deeply missed on the bench. One attorney friend of mine actually cried during her last hearing before Judge Beach. And I’m sure many others have shed tears since his retirement. ”

For the next ten years, Russ practiced in Michigan in the areas of bankruptcy law, family law, criminal defense, and general litigation. As the years went on, Russ practiced more and more bankruptcy law as he gained an outstanding reputation in that area.

In 2005 Russ moved back to South Carolina to settle in the Summerville area. Russ’s wife grew up in Hanahan, South Carolina and most of his wife's family live in the Charleston area. "That can be both good and bad at the same time," Russ says. He officially declined to comment further about his relationship with his in-laws.

Russ has three daughters, three female cats, and a female dog. He is outnumbered. As Russ puts it, “to borrow a line from Jeff Foxworthy, I’m 'swimming in the estrogen ocean.'”

Russ enjoys the challenge of helping clients with their financial struggles. “I view my bankruptcy practice as a way to level the playing field between ordinary citizens—the voters—and Corporate America—the vote buyers. I’m unapologetically on the side of the little guy.”

Russ helps clients file Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy, as well as out-of-court solutions like negotiating with creditors.

Contact Information:
Russell DeMott, Charleston Area Bankruptcy Lawyer
DeMott Law Firm, P.A.
103 Grandview Drive, Suite B
Summerville, South Carolina 29483
(843) 695-0830
(843) 408-4443 (facsimile)
[email protected]

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