Tuesday, June 28, 2011

WHEN THE MONEY TREE IS CHOPPED DOWN: Thoughts from a bankruptcy attorney

I personally have never had a good sense of the value of money. My husband will strongly agree to that fact. However, in my years of practice in the area of Bankruptcy I came to see that people were defining themselves and their self worth by money or the lack thereof.

My bankruptcy clients were some of my favorite clients because they were the exact opposite of the people that the credit card companies and banks stated they were. In the over 100 bankrupticies that I represented clients in, I can count on one hand people that might have been "trying to get away without paying", trying to defraud the creditors in any way or being in contempt of the bankruptcy process.

My clients were good people that fell on hard times. They were people that had been out of work for various reasons and had still tried their best to keep up with payments. They were people who did not come out well after a divorce and were overwhelmed. They were people who were sick and had minimal health insurance, if any at all. These people tried everything before coming to see me. They would try to work out something with their creditors and were often rebuffed. They went to Consumer Credit Counseling (at that time owned by the major credit cards) and were given a plan that was impossible to implement if they wanted to eat or clothe their children. I can say that every one of them did not want to see me and file a bankruptcy.

What saddened me the most was how embarrassed these people were who, usually through no fault of their own, were having to take a step that they found distasteful and ugly. The bankruptcy statues were set up as a "fresh start" for people whose obligations were way beyond their ability to pay. I tried to make them see it this way, but so much of their self esteem was tied up in money and the ability to provide for their families that they usually could not. Yes, some were not the best money managers on the block and some shopped a bit, but I had few gamblers and most of the people I saw had sincerely tried in every way possible to make good on their debts.

The bankruptcy laws have since been "reformed" by the strong credit card lobby in congress making it even more difficult for people to get this fresh start.

I learned through this experience that your self esteem should never be tied up in money. We are all trying our best to get by and money should never ever define the person that you are. Throughout my years of practice I learned from my clients and I can only hope that they learned to be proud of themselves.

I know the quote below is more of an environmental statement, but it does sum up my thought:

Written for the GBE2 blogging project.


  1. I know they changed when I wanted to file. I only have two accounts from well over 10 years ago, but creditors still keep calling me.

    I think you should never let pride get in the way of what is necessary as well.

    --Diana Jillian

  2. I have learned a lot during my process. Love the way you talk about people (like me) in a very sensitive way.


  3. I know several people who have been through this through no fault of their own. Living check to check has become a way of life for so many people and if the job goes away, they have no safety net. I also love your sensitivity and understanding. It's good to know people with your heart are out there trying to help people who can no longer help themselves. There, but for the grace of God...go I.

  4. I'm sure it's very hard not to feel like a failure when filing for bankruptcy. After all, we're taught to measure ourselves and others based on economic status. Hopefully you're not the only lawyer out there who sees bankruptcy for what it usually is - good people in bad situations.

  5. I have been a victim of circumstance and forced into a bankruptcy attorney's office. It was not a circumstance my husband and I asked for, and one we did everything in our power to avoid. Sometimes you can not plan for catastrophe. For those that float along thinking they have it all figured out, God help them when the unthinkable happens. Everyone in this world just does the best they can with what they are given to work with. Things happen, that is life. Sometimes, a fresh start is the only option no matter how like dirt it makes you feel. In the end, it is a relief and the first step to peace of mind. Thank God there are compassionate people like you out there to help people who need it most.


  6. yup...can't eat money....it can't kiss you either..except in a pine box LOCK YOU IN..why i will be cremated thank you very much hehe

    LOVE THIS PoSt...LOVE YOU!!!!! MUAH!!!!!!!

  7. I think you make an excellent point, that people shouldn't define their self worth in relation to the money they do or do not have. It is wonderful to know that compassionate people like yourself are out there and understand this...and can help those in that situation understand this. What an excellent post and a great take on this week's topic!! Cheers, Jenn

  8. I am one of those people who, when my children were younger, tried to raise them with less money than I needed. Over the years, I was so deeply in debt, the only way out was through bankruptcy. It was a horrific time. I never again used credit cards, but at the time, it was the only way I could feed and clothe my children. Great post! And it was nice to read your side of the bankruptcy issue.


  9. I'm amazed at all of the people who are against a national health plan. So many good people have been knocked out financially due to illnesses. I guess you have to be rich to deserve health care.


  10. One of my best friends filed for bankruptcy a few years back, and she was just devastated. Her husband had lost his job and was trying to make ends meet with two low-paying part-time jobs. She was working, but their bills just kept piling up until filing was the only way they wouldn't be swallowed up.

    They filed, but they felt (and still feel, even after time has passed) awful. She will tell you that she feels like a loser, though they were never big spenders or irresponsible with their money. Life just happened.

    Terrific post. It's nice to see that the people sitting on the other side of that desk truly understands. I'm sending her here to read this.

  11. Great post from an insider!

    Ellie's Couch has given this blog the Incredibly Sweet Blog and Stylish Blogger awards. Stop by anytime to pick up your awards.

  12. So true. Money is a fickle thing and we tend to tie so much worth and emotion into it. You did a great job of putting the humanity in it all, and any of your clients were clearly lucky to have you representing them.

  13. @ all of you, I thank you. To those who have been there, be at peace.


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