PLF CLE on Malpractice Risks in Bankruptcy - The Takeaway

PLF CLE on Malpractice Risks in Bankruptcy - The Takeaway

The PLF recently presented a CLE on potential malpractice risks for bankruptcy practitioners. PLF Claims Attorney John Berge and Julia Manela from Watkinson Laird Rubenstein PC explored how the pandemic could generate an uptick in consumer bankruptcy filings after emergency governmental financial assistance ends and eviction moratoriums expire. In anticipation of a possible increase in filings, the PLF encourages both debtors’ and creditors’ attorneys to become aware of the more common mistakes seen by the PLF claims attorneys. Examples mentioned in the CLE include failing to clearly specify the terms of representation when offering limited scope services, not understanding how other matters such as a personal injury case can affect a bankruptcy filing, and neglecting to gather all of the relevant information from the client.

The speakers offered much useful guidance on avoiding malpractice in bankruptcy:

  • Remember the saying, “If it’s not in writing, it didn’t happen.” Use clear and detailed engagement, disengagement, and nonengagement letters. See our sample letters. Follow up your conversations with clients in writing and confirm all information with the client before any filing.

  • If offering a limited representation, clearly specify in writing the scope of services, including deadlines. See an article in the OSB Bulletin about your ethical duties and best practices when providing limited scope representation.

  • Capture all relevant information, including a complete list of all the client’s assets and debts. Know your client’s history and current circumstances, such as involvement in other court proceedings or legal matters that could affect their bankruptcy.

  • Emphasize to clients that submitting a complete and accurate list of all their assets and liabilities is not discretionary, and failure to comply with this statutory requirement carries penalties and other adverse legal consequences. Everything must be disclosed.

  • Maintain and regularly update an accurate and complete calendaring system.

  • Understand the exemption categories and options and track objection timelines.

If you’re interested in learning more, you can view or download the CLE materials and listen to the recording on our website. This topic will likely assume even greater importance as we emerge from the pandemic and begin to experience more of its fallout. If you practice in bankruptcy – even occasionally – take advantage of this free PLF resource and learn how to spot – and hopefully avoid – the most common mistakes.

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