“Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
It’s that moment when a debtor realizes that whatever their current financial situation is, and whatever they were trying their best to hold onto, it is simply not worth holding onto any longer at the going price, and it is time to file for bankruptcy.
Once that revelation has been made, all the heavy lifting of retaining that new client was already done by that Debtor. They have finally faced the reality of their financial circumstances and want relief and a fresh start to earn, save and invest money rather than drowning in inflated debt they have no hope of paying back. The Debtor is now at your doorstep, and all that needs to be done is to go over the options and whether they will qualify for a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing.
You do not want to come off as distant and clinical, as empathy and compassion towards bankruptcy clients are paramount. We are charged with helping clients through one of the most traumatic and emotionally draining experiences of their life. However, we can empower our bankruptcy clients with information about the process and help them to understand that when used properly, bankruptcy can actually be a powerful financial tool to help reposition and reboot one’s financial life.
In the nearly two decades that I have been a Bankruptcy Paralegal, I have seen different variations as to how law firms conduct their intakes with clients. I have witnessed an excellent intake go for approximately 10-15 minutes, while obtaining all of the necessary information needed to come to the right conclusion about what chapter filing is needed. There is a strong grasp of what issues may come up. The client also feels heard and well taken care of by the law firm, with a strong feeling that they are in good hands.
Then there are those bankruptcy attorneys, and bankruptcy paralegals for that matter, who just get right to the facts and skip the small talk, but as the saying goes, honey attracts bees. If the honey is sweet, more bees come your way. However, as long as the facts are laid out clearly and concisely, I have seen this more clinical method work for certain clients.
Then there is the car salesman approach to the intake process. Attorneys, Paralegals or their intake specialist will talk about everything else but bankruptcy, and these conversations tend to last about 30 minutes as they try to connect on a personal level. In the last few minutes, the conversation will finally shift to bankruptcy. There is no substantial conversation to determine the chapter filing or if bankruptcy is even the right choice for the client. The overzealous attorney, paralegal or intake specialist immediately states, “Yes, we can help you.” This approach is, simply put, terrible. You put the client at risk, and you put your own Bankruptcy practice and law license at risk.
Remember that bankruptcy sells itself. Do not oversell. Simply provide the facts to the potential client, while communicating compassion for their situation. The client is most likely already looking to file and they just need to know If they have the right Bankruptcy law firm to do the job for them. This means someone who has a full grasp of the Bankruptcy laws and knows how to properly apply it in their case.