Focusing on all facets of bankruptcy law and practice

Meg McKenzie Feist: Helping to Ease Burdens Through Bankruptcy

It takes organization, dedication, and passion to balance a full professional schedule and public service activities. Attorney Meg McKenzie Feist ofChoate Hall & Stewart LLP has managed both, thanks in part to encouragement she received from mentors in her early career to engage with the community. “I’ve learned that if something is important enough, there is always a way to get it done,” she explained. “Now that I’ve internalized those lessons [from my mentors], my work with the bar and my pro bono work are just a part of my routine.”

Feist, whose practice at Choate centers on business bankruptcies and commercial finance, represents individual Chapter 7 debtors on a pro bono basis through the
Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) of the Boston Bar Association. In addition, she co-chairs the Bankruptcy Section’s Public Service Committee at the BBA, which annually co-sponsors a free training on how to represent a Chapter 7 debtor with the VLP. The training, according to Feist, is “an excellent entry point” to the major aspects of representing a bankruptcy client on a pro bono basis. While many Chapter 7 cases are straightforward, some require addressing special legal issues or sensitive personal issues that underlie the client’s financial difficulties. 

Feist reports that representing individual pro bono debtors brings the moral component of bankruptcy sharply into focus:

“When I meet with a pro bono client, it’s clear to me that the person is dealing not just with feelings of disappointment or regret about their financial affairs, but also with questions of a moral character: 'Should I not pay my creditors, even though I said I would? Do I owe it to my spouse and my children, whose futures depend on my financial well-being, to file for bankruptcy?' My experience is that pro bono debtors take these questions very seriously. It’s my job as a counselor to look up from the statutes, rules, forms, and fees, to acknowledge those questions, and to help my client deal with them.”

As a counselor, she also helps pro bono clients navigate some of the tougher aspects of the bankruptcy process, such as the required Section 341 meeting, at which the bankruptcy trustee and creditors are given the opportunity to ask the client questions before the bankruptcy court’s entry of any order discharging his or her obligations. The Section 341 meeting is the only personal contact that most Chapter 7 pro bono clients ever have with the bankruptcy system and can cause them some stress. As Feist puts it, “I feel personally rewarded if I am able to use my knowledge of the process and my interpersonal skills to soften the sharp edges of what is otherwise an uncomfortable situation for my client.”

Undertaking pro bono bankruptcy representation through the VLP is especially useful to junior lawyers who are looking for opportunities to enhance their practical experience, Feist says.  But Feist is also very passionate about the broader service aspect of her work with the VLP:

“[P]ro bono work is about equal access to justice. It’s about acknowledging, through action, that the starting line in life is staggered.  If a person cannot afford a bankruptcy attorney, there is probably a pretty good reason for that.”

For more information about pro bono opportunities and activities, check out the BBA’s Pro Bono Month Calendar here.

Bankruptcy Law Committees

  • Bankruptcy Communications Committee
    This committee publishes information relevant to the bankruptcy bar. If you are interested in an editorial position or writing for the newsletter or blog, contact the

    Contact Information

    Christopher M. Candon

    Sheehan, Phinney, Bass & Green-NH

    (603) 627-8168

    Kristin M. McDonough

    Riemer & Braunstein LLP

    (617) 880-3436

  • Bankruptcy Education Committee
    Help develop relevant and innovative educational sessions led by a diverse group of talented speakers who cover both business and consumer bankruptcy issues. This committee promotes and oversees the educational programs for the Bankruptcy Section, including the monthly Brown Bag Lunch speaker series and several in-depth seminar programs.

    Contact Information

    Jeffrey D. Sternklar

    Duane Morris LLP

    (857) 488-4216

    Alex Frank Mattera

    Demeo, LLP

    (617) 263-2600

  • Bankruptcy Membership Committee
    This committee aims to increase participation in the Section through outreach activities.

    Contact Information

    Natalie Sawyer

    Macken Toussaint

    Riemer & Braunstein LLP

    (617) 880-3461

  • Bankruptcy Public Policy Committee
    The BBA is very active on the legislative front. Often times, bankruptcy attorneys are asked to lend their expertise.

    Contact Information

    Richard L. Levine

    Nelson Kinder + Mosseau, PC

    (617) 778-7575

    Michael J. Pappone

    Goodwin Procter LLP

    (617) 570-1940

  • Bankruptcy Public Service Committee
    This committee organizes the annual Chapter 7 Pro Bono trainings and the Reaffirmation Clinic. The committee works closely with practitioners and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to respond to needs identified in the community.

    Contact Information

    Adam J. Ruttenberg

    Looney & Grossman LLP

    (617) 951-2800

    Meg McKenzie Feist

    Choate Hall & Stewart LLP

    (617) 248-5000

  • Commercial Finance Committee
    This committee focuses on lending capital in commercial transactions.

    Contact Information

    William Scott McMahon

    Downes McMahon LLP

    (617) 600-8694

    John F. Ventola

    Choate Hall & Stewart LLP

    (617) 248-5085

  • Consumer Bankruptcy Committee
    This committee updates practitioners regarding changes and developments in Ch. 7 and Ch. 13 cases. In addition, it helps coordinate pro bono bankruptcy services in consumer matters.

    Contact Information

    Ann Brennan

    Ann Brennan Law Offices

    (781) 878-6900

    Kate Nicholson

    Parker & Associates

    (781) 729-0005

  • Consumer Finance Committee
    This a joint committee between the Financial Services and Bankruptcy Sections. This committee represents a collaborative effort to study, educate and review consumer finance products.
  • Financial Literacy Committee
    By volunteering for the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program, you will help high school students across Massachusetts learn to make informed and effective decisions regarding their finances through educational and experiential opportunities. You can become involved by working on the committee to develop and grow the program or teaching at a school.
  • New Bankruptcy Lawyers Committee
    A part of the Bankruptcy Law Section, the New Bankruptcy Lawyers Committee addresses issues faced by new or relatively new practitioners of bankruptcy law.

    Contact Information

    Timothy John Carter

    Goulston & Storrs, PC

    (617) 482-1776

    David Koha

    Casner & Edwards, LLP

    (617) 426-5900

  • Practice and Procedure Committee
    This committee serves as a liaison with the office of the Clerk of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts and considers local practice issues.

    Contact Information

    Guy B. Moss

    Riemer & Braunstein LLP

    (617) 880-3466

  • Steering Committee
    The leadership committee of the Section organizes programs and discusses policy. To inquire about opportunities, please contact the Section Co-Chairs.