Two Years After BAPCPA, I Still Love My Job

17 Oct Two Years After BAPCPA, I Still Love My Job

I love my job.  Not all the time, and I sometimes have trouble remembering that.  Last week I wrote about the top ten changes in my practice since BAPCPA became effective, and then my top ten wastes of time as a result of BAPCPA.  Practicing law over the last two years has been frustrating, challenging, and sometimes just plain silly.  But it has often been rewarding, too.  Yesterday I was reminded, vividly, of why I do this.  And why I love my job.

A prospective client came to see me for the first time yesterday.  I usually ask clients to tell me why they have come to see me.  She told me briefly and quietly of a family tragedy that has had a devastating  effect on her finances, and her ability to care for her children.  I won’t trade on her misfortune by repeating details; suffice it to say it is the kind of thing that nightmares are made of.

But I could help.  One of the burdens she carries is financial, and I could offer her a way to deal with just one of the overwhelming problems she is trying to handle.  It made a difference to her; she said it was the first good news, the first easy breath she had drawn, in six months.  To me, a bankruptcy is a relatively simple solution to a given set of problems; to her, it was almost miraculous.

One of the tenets underlying BAPCPA is the assumption that bankruptcy lawyers, especially those representing debtors, are a part of the problem.  To read the provisions of BAPCPA, and the legislative history of the act leads to the inevitable conclusion that the drafters of BAPCPA assume that bankruptcy lawyers are “conspirators in an ‘abusive’ bankruptcy system.”   Since the law was drafted by lobbyists and enacted by politicians, I think you have to consider the source.  It is hardly a new idea, though–insert your favorite lawyer joke here.

The fact of the matter is, however, that there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that the debtor’s bar creates or even contributes significantly to whatever abuse there may be.  Believe me, if the lobbyist-proponents of BAPCPA could have presented any evidence of that, they would have.  Nor has any such evidence turned up in the last two years.  In fact, the evidence gathered under the aegis of BAPCPA suggests that there is not now and never was systemic abuse.  Bankruptcy was and remains a good option for an honest but unfortunate debtor.  Every debtor’s lawyer I know approaches the matter the same way I do–if you have something to hide, bankruptcy court is the wrong place to be.  Of course I have clients from time to time who ignore that advice, and nothing in the notices, certifications and general perambulations of BAPCPA will change that.  But lawyers are not, and never were, the source of such abuses that may have existed.

And yesterday, my new client wasn’t put off by all the disclosures I handed her, required under BAPCPA.   She didn’t care that I am designated as a “debt relief agency” under federal law, and that I am required to notify her that I help people file for bankruptcy.  After all, that’s why she came.  All she cared about was that I could help.  And at the end of the day, that’s all I care about, too.

And I still love my job.

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Däna (pronounced "Donna") Wilkinson, has been a bankruptcy lawyer in South Carolina for 20 years. She is certified as a bankruptcy specialist by the South Carolina Supreme Court.
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