FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 2/11/2010

Contact: Contact: Eric Fullerton

(617) 778-1906

New Pro Bono Opportunity to Address Pro Se Crisis at Bankruptcy Court

The BBA Bankruptcy Section, in collaboration with the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the BBA (VLP), today issued an urgent appeal for volunteer lawyers and law firms to take on pro bono Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases. All cases will be prescreened by the VLP, and volunteers will be provided with mentoring assistance by both VLP and seasoned bankruptcy practitioners.

“Given what is going on in the broader economy, there is a substantial need for pro bono bankruptcy services,” said Adrienne K. Walker, Co-Chair of the BBA Bankruptcy Section and an attorney at Mintz Levin. “You need not be a bankruptcy lawyer or insolvency expert to volunteer. Given the quality of the mentoring provided, this is a great opportunity for litigators and real estate practitioners, and also for newer lawyers to do client counseling, and if the need arises, to argue before a bankruptcy judge.”

Today’s appeal comes in direct response to the rising number of low income people appearing pro se in Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases. One recent such pro bono bankruptcy case, handled by Walker herself, involved a family where the husband, a National Guardsman, was deployed to Iraq. During his deployment, the small business he owned fell apart, and his wife had no choice but to use credit cards for basic needs.

Other pro bono cases are expected to involve individuals that have recently lost their jobs, many of whom are living below the poverty level and need bankruptcy assistance to protect their ability to stay in their homes.          

In response to this urgent need, the BBA Bankruptcy Section and VLP have already recruited more than 105 volunteer lawyers to assist debtors who would otherwise be pro se. Bankruptcy departments of many larger law firms have already agreed to take at least three such pro bono cases per bankruptcy lawyer.

“We need all the volunteers we can get,” said Walker. “We acknowledge that in the past lawyers at large firms felt precluded from volunteering because of client conflicts. But we trust that an ethics opinion http://www.bostonbar.org/sc/ethics/op08_1.pdf issued by the BBA Ethics Committee will reduce any barriers to participation.

For more information, please contact the Co-chairs of the Bankruptcy Section’s Pro Bono Committee:  Doug Gooding at (617) 248-5277 (dgooding@choate.com) or Elaine Benkoski at (781) 461-0369 (elainembenkoski@mindspring.com).

The Boston Bar Association is a non-profit, voluntary membership organization of 11,000 attorneys drawn from private practice, corporations, government agencies, legal aid organizations, the courts, and law schools. It traces its origins to meetings convened by John Adams, the lawyer who provided pro bono representation to the British soldiers prosecuted for the Boston Massacre and went on to become the second president of the United States.