Brooklyn lawyers receive free bankruptcy CLE for taking on pro bono cases
Attorneys looking to get an introduction to bankruptcy law were treated to a free continuing legal education seminar hosted by the Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project last Wednesday, in exchange for agreeing to take on a case pro bono.
Sheldon Barasch, supervising attorney for District Council 37, and Bruce Weiner, a partner at Rosenberg, Musso & Weiner, LLP, led two-hour lecture that was designed for attorneys new to low-asset and low-income Chapter 7 bankruptcies. They also provided an overview of the steps in a consumer bankruptcy and general principles and form preparations.
“A lot of people think there is a stigma to filing bankruptcy and they don’t want that stigma,” said Barasch. “Consider the people who have filed for bankruptcy — Lehman Brothers, Hostess Cupcakes, General Motors, Texico, Bernie Madoff, Donald Trump, they have all done it. Your clients can do it too.
“Bankruptcy can be very risky sometimes because if you do it and don’t consider the implications of it you may find that you have a client lose their property by filing for bankruptcy,” Barasch continued. “So, we’re going to go through this so that doesn’t happen. The goal is to prepare a bankruptcy petition that will protect your client and make sure that they go through the process unscathed.”
The duo opened the discussion by explaining the differences between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy. For this discussion, they focused primarily on Chapter 13, which eliminates most debts and safeguards against repossession or foreclosure.
“The major difference with a Chapter 13 is that creditors are paid out of future income,” Barasch said. “It can only be filed by a person who has regular income and payments are made to creditors over a period of time, between three and five years.”
As the two explained the process of gathering the information needed and what happens at the end of that process, Barasch stressed that it is important for attorneys to uncover all of their client’s debts and properties and to ensure that everything is disclosed, even if those properties or debts are based overseas.
“It doesn’t mean that you have to launch an all-out investigation, but you have to sit and ask them all of the questions involving their tax returns, their pay stubs and maybe even a credit report, just so that you can say that if something comes up later that you didn’t know about, you can say that you’ve done a reasonable inquiry,” Weiner said.
After the lecture, attorneys are contacted by the VLP with opportunities to represent qualifying clients for pro bono representation.
“We have attorneys in our office who are admitted in the Eastern District of New York who will help file the case and make appearances in court,” said Sidney Cherubin, director of legal services for the VLP. “We have mentors in Sheldon and Bruce here tonight who will answer any questions that may come up during the course of you representing a client. We also have other mentors who are available.”
The next CLE and training session that will be hosted by the Volunteer Lawyers will be on Nov. 7 at 6 p.m. at the Brooklyn Bar Association titled, “Article 17A: Guardianship of Intellectually and Developmentally Disabled Persons.” That CLE will be presented by Sidney Cherubin, Natalie Chin and Helen Galette.
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