Bankruptcy is Complicated
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.