The Stigma About Lawyers

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While waiting for my client’s case to be called today in Bankruptcy Court, a woman’s case was called where she appeared pro-se (representing herself). Opposing her bankruptcy discharge was a government attorney (US DOJ) objecting to the discharge of her student loans. (Government attorney was very professional, by the way, so no issue there.) Student loans have special and very strict standards applicable to discharge, and they are rarely discharged in bankruptcy (which, in my personal opinion, is correct public policy).

This woman’s situation is all-too-common – young daughter with medical issues, ugly divorce pending, husband avoiding his support obligations, husband is a lawyer who is gaming the system in family court, limited ability to work due to caring for her child. I left the courtroom, found her in the hallway after, and gave her my card. We take a limited number of pro-bono (no fee) cases each year and this one has the kind of social issues we look for. My law partner, Sally Keenan, would actually be the one handling this – she’s the bankruptcy expert. It’s not likely that the loans will be discharged but we can give her some good advice on options and restructuring, and maybe we can get her to a family court attorney to chase the delinquent husband.

I hear plenty of negative lawyer comments every day, some quite venomous, including plenty on dive boats. I don’t mind – some of it is certainly deserved by the profession, and hearing it from all walks of life on dive boats is a good reality check. But when you criticize lawyers, please try to keep some perspective. We are hardly the only lawyers out there trying to do some good – I know plenty of others. There are good lawyers and bad lawyers, good cops and bad cops, good teachers and bad teachers, doctors, etc, etc, etc…