I have a confession to make. I feel sorry for creditors’ attorneys. Most of the time they represent institutions–faceless corporations. They deal with someone in the bankruptcy or loss mitigation department. They don’t have a human being for a client.
Someone once said the big choice lawyers must make when they begin their practices is whether they will represent people or institutions. I’ve always represented real people. Real people with real problems. Sometimes that’s frustrating. People can be difficult to deal with because, well, they are people. They have emotions and personal issues they bring to the attorney-client relationship. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m sure I earn less than a lot of my colleagues on the other side of the bankruptcy bar, but I like what I do.
By helping people with their financial issues, I can often prevent divorce, prevent stress-related illness, and make a real difference in people’s lives. Don’t get me wrong, I have great respect for creditors’ attorneys. Many of them are my friends. But I’ll gladly stick to representing debtors. I like being on the side of the little guy, and I’ll never apologize for that.
And so I’ve decided to begin an ongoing series about real people here in the Charleston area who’ve had financial problems. The clients who will be relating their stories will obviously remain anonymous. Their names don’t matter. Their stories are what matters. They have willingly agreed to share their stories with my readers so they could provide hope and encouragement to others who are where they used to be–stressed out, worried, unable to sleep, and perhaps experiencing marital issues–all because of financial problems.
These posts are not about me or my firm. Instead, this series is about my clients. I hope you find it helpful.
The first clients to share their experiences with me are a middle-aged couple. They recently moved to the Charleston area from another state. They were cooperative and a pleasure to help. Their letter is reproduced below.
Did we do the right thing?
Sometimes no matter how hard we try to manage our lives, circumstances get the upper hand. Since we are in our 50s, ingrained in us is the sense of responsibility for ourselves that made it so very difficult to contemplate asking for help with our financial situation. For many, many years we had been struggling to pay off huge past debts from medical bills, raising children and decisions that turned out to be poor ones. How true it is that hindsight is 20/20. We were almost there too. But, when we were busy making plans to be debt free, as it so often does, life happened. Job loss (not once, but twice in 6 months) resulted in almost a year of no income except those small unemployment payments. Mortgage and other debt, combined with $1800 COBRA insurance payments every month, took every penny we had saved. Thankfully our prayers were answered with a job opportunity in South Carolina. But what were we going to do with a house that wouldn’t sell in another state and those past debts that there was no way we could afford to pay at half our previous income? Reality hits hard sometimes. Stress builds and starts to affect everything.
So we looked into bankruptcy as an option and realized after our first attorney meeting that our situation was one that reflected exactly why the bankruptcy laws were created in the first place. Getting the reassurance that we were not bad people, but just people who had come upon bad times was what we needed to hear to help us come to terms with what we obviously needed to do. What a weight off of our shoulders to see that there was help for us.
Are there downsides? Yes, for us there are. We regret not being able to pay legitimate bills. We regret the consequences to our credit. But we realize the fresh start we can make at this stage of our lives, provided by our discharge, means we can take what we have learned and live better. We can focus on regaining our health and doing more for others. We can work to provide for ourselves when we have to retire.
Did we do the right thing? Yes, we did, and we are grateful for the help and support along the way.
Notice Required by SC Rule of Professional Conduct 7.1 : “Any result the endorsed lawyer or law firm may achieve on behalf of one client in one matter does not necessarily indicate similar results can be obtained for other clients.”