- Instructor: Attorney Bob Schaller
- Lectures: 15
Pre-Engagement Client Communications
Every attorney should study this course before seeking his/her first client. The first lesson begins with a focus on the ethical requirements surrounding communications with prospective clients. For example, bankruptcy attorneys must be aware of the ethical rules regarding advertising and compensation imposed by their state bar. Plus, attorneys need to comply with the advertising and compensation limitations imposed by the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. These limitations are in addition to, and not an alternative to, the advertising and compensation limitations provided in the state rules of professional conduct. Congress imposed restrictions on any advertisement directed to the general public that indicates that the bankruptcy lawyer provides assistance with respect to credit defaults, mortgage foreclosures, eviction proceedings, excessive debt, debt collection pressure, or inability to pay any consumer debt.
Another lesson treats bankruptcy attorneys to a discussion on the importance of client communications to increase profitability and facilitate future client referrals. A bankruptcy attorney has an opportunity to imprint on each client’s psyche the notion that the attorney is a trusted advisor, competent lawyer, caring individual that the client can turn to for advice now and in the future when other legal or financial needs arise. What an opportunity to create a client for life! Still another lesson presents 15 steps to great client care to enhance profitability through referrals.
Next, this course focuses on fact gathering during the initial client consultation. A standardized pre-printed intake form is an essential part of fact gathering. Fact gathering is one of the bankruptcy attorney’s chief goals when meeting with a prospective client for the first time. The intake form allows the attorney to better understand the prospect’s current financial situation and is a starting point for inquiries into the prospective client’s financial problems, goals, and possible solutions. A sample intake form is provided in Chapter 4.
The course further offers a detailed timeline of a typical Chapter 7 case. Bankruptcy attorneys must be prepared to explain the bankruptcy process to prospective clients. The difference between landing a prospective client and losing a prospective client may be the bankruptcy attorney’s ability to communicate the timeline for Chapter 7 cases. Prospective clients are anxious when they meet a bankruptcy attorney for the first time. The attorney must exude confidence and knowledge. Be ready for the questions about when certain bankruptcy events would occur. A solid familiarity with the bankruptcy timeline is essential. A day-by-day timeline is presented.
Later, a course discusses “non-engagement” letter agreements. Not every prospect will engage the law firm. To avoid malpractice claims, bankruptcy attorneys should utilize non-engagement letters that clearly communicate their decision NOT to accept an engagement. Three separate sample non-engagement letters are provided.
The final course highlights the need to tender bankruptcy disclosures to the prospective client by the bankruptcy attorney prior to a prospective client engaging the attorney. An attorney’s ethical responsibility is to provide a prospective client with sufficient information so that the prospective client can make an informed decision whether to engage the bankruptcy attorney, for what services, and at what cost. Best practices suggest that an attorney document the dissemination of key information. In addition to any ethical requirements, Congress also compelled bankruptcy attorneys to tender these certain disclosures when passing § 342(b) and § 527 of the Bankruptcy Code. Samples of each disclosure is provided.
- Lecture 3.1Section 342(b) Disclosure30m
- Lecture 3.2Section 527 Disclosures30m
- Lecture 3.3Credit Counseling Disclosure & Consent30m
- Lecture 3.4Non-Dischargeability of Debt Disclosure15m
- Lecture 3.5Anticipated Outcome/Loss of Assets Disclosure15m
- Lecture 3.6Vehicle, Real Estate & Fraudulent Transfer – Disclosure15m
- Lecture 3.7Creditors to Close Account & Credit Report Disclosure15m
- Lecture 3.8Client Duties After Bankruptcy Filing Disclosure15m
- Lecture 3.9Dismissal or Denial of Discharge Disclosure15m
- Lecture 3.10Omnibus Disclosure15m
Client Intake Form for Initial Consultation
Timeline for Chapter 7 Cases