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

    Gina M. O'Neil

    Mirick O'Connell - Westborough Office

    (508) 860 1483

    Christopher M. Candon

    Sheehan, Phinney, Bass + Green-NH

    (603) 627-8168

  • 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

    Alex Frank Mattera

    Demeo, LLP

    (617) 263-2600

    D. Ethan Jeffery

    Murphy & King, Professional Corporation

    (617) 226-3410

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

    Contact Information

    Macken Toussaint

    Riemer & Braunstein LLP

    (617) 880-3461

    Keri Wintle

    Murtha Cullina LLP

    (617) 457-4060

  • 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

    Timothy John Carter

    Goulston & Storrs PC

    (617) 482-1776

  • 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

    Meg McKenzie Feist

    Choate Hall & Stewart LLP

    (617) 248-5000

    Jesse I. Redlener

    Dalton & Finegold, LLP

    (978) 269-6420

  • Commercial and Consumer Finance Committee
    This committee focuses on commercial and consumer lending.

    Contact Information

    Christopher Somma

    Goodwin Procter LLP

    (617) 570-3948

    Robert Cooper

    OneUnited Bank

    (617) 457-4400

  • 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

    Amy Azza

    Orlans Moran PLLC

    (781) 7907805

    Kate Nicholson

    Parker & Associates

    (781) 729-0005

  • 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.

    Contact Information

    Janet E. Bostwick

    Janet E. Bostwick, PC

    (617) 956-2670

    Douglas B. Rosner

    Goulston & Storrs PC

    (617) 482-1776

  • 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

    David Koha

    Casner & Edwards, LLP

    (617) 426-5900

    Ben Chapman

    Brown Rudnick LLP

  • 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

    Jeffrey D. Sternklar

    Duane Morris LLP

    (857) 488-4216

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