Financial Protection Law Center letter of congratulations.

Financial Protection Law Center letter of congratulations.

As we posted before, Shane Perry scored a major victory for his client, Ms. Houck, who lost her house after Lifestore Bank sold it, despite her open and active bankruptcy.  The magnitude of this case and the decision by the Fourth Circuit is far reaching and will help many people throughout North Carolina and the Southeast.  In her letter, Maria McIntyre, of the Financial Protection Law Center, very kindly informed Collum & Perry that the decision in the case would be very helpful to her in a number of her cases.

Collum & Perry is very happy to work on behalf of our clients and all of those who suffer financial setbacks.  The firm is full of hard working attorneys who are happy to take cases that are complex and confusing and work tirelessly to advocate for the rights of those who have been injured.  Clients come to our office, feeling like they are in financial ruin, and, many times, their financial problems are not of their own creation.  Regardless of the fault, however, Collum & Perry is happy to offer options and solutions to help clients overcome financial hurdles and move down the road of fiscal success.

Letter from Maria McIntyre of the Financial Protection Law Center

Dear Shane, I wanted to express my admiration and appreciation for your excellent advocacy in your Houck case. It was such a complex and meaningful case. It would have been easy to decline such a messy set of facts and procedure when the case came to you. Your decision from the 4th Circuit is very helpful to our firm in several cases we have pending…[confidential] Congratulations on your superb work. Best, Maria McIntyre

Why give a free consultation?

Lawyers have many reputations, one of which is that they are expensive.  While it is true that legal advice often does not come cheap, there are exceptions, one of which is the free consultation.  With the costs and expenses of running a law firm, why would any attorney give away any legal advice for free, especially an hour of it?  Here are a few reasons:

1. A free consultation makes it easy for people to come in the door. Law firms are businesses, and increased foot traffic is usually good for any business.

2. Not all lawyers are a good fit for a client and not all clients are a good fit for a lawyer.  A free consultation minimizes the risk that a client (or attorney) will feel obligated to stick in a relationship that does not work.

3. Not all people who contact an attorney need the attorney’s services. The free consultation allows an attorney to gauge the needs of the client and for the client to gather information about the legal process.

4. Everyone likes something that is free.

5. We often have great clients who do not have a lot of money.  By making it easier for these clients to come see us, we may find cases that earn both our office and clients significant amounts of money.

6. While consultations cost clients no money, they do take time.  By agreeing to spend an hour or so in our office, we can verify a client’s dedication to solving their issue.

7. Lawyers are like everyone else — they need to pay bills.  However, like all relationships, a free consultation acts as an interview or a first date.  Once a relationship is formed, it is much more likely that a client will want to hire an attorney.

8. Attorney-client relationships are built on trust.  Often, people do not trust that something is “free.”  By offering a free consultation, and really meaning it, an attorney establishes that she is trustworthy.

9. Word of mouth is great advertisement.  Even if a client learns that she does not need to hire the attorney during the free consultation, that client may refer her friends to the attorney, knowing that the attorney is a good value and trustworthy.

10. A free consultation provides attorneys with opportunities to provide legal advice to those who otherwise may not be able to afford to speak with an attorney.

But isn’t Bankruptcy Federal?

It is common that clients search for information about their case online.  They don’t want to “bother” their attorneys, they don’t trust their attorneys, or, sometimes, they do not have a bankruptcy attorney.  As a result, they search for “bankruptcy law” and whatever specific topic they are curious about: losing a house, rebuilding credit, keeping a car, ruining lives, etc.  Even if they enter a specific zip code or location, they still may find results from all over the United States, not just North Carolina or, more specifically, the Statesville or Charlotte division of the Western District of North Carolina.  They then read everything they can without realizing that bankruptcy is different from place to place.

Collum & Perry is located in Mooresville, North Carolina, just north of Charlotte.  For that reason, most of our cases are filed in the Western District of North Carolina, although we can also file cases in the Middle District of North Carolina, but North Carolina has four districts total.  Even within the Western District, we file cases in the Statesville Division, the Shelby Division and the Charlotte Division.  Each division has slightly different ways of doing things, each District has significantly different ways of doing things, and the differences from state to state are even more substantial.

For example, in North Carolina, there is a Bankruptcy Administrator (or BA).  The Western District’s BA is Linda Simpson. The BA oversees all of the Trustees in an effort to maintain the integrity of their work.  She also reviews and approves pre-filing credit counseling course and financial management courses.  In every other state, except Alabama, there is a US Trustee, who is part of the Justice Department.

Within North Carolina, there are differences between districts.  In the Western District of North Carolina, there is no confirmation hearing.  Clients are often comforted to hear that they will not have to attend Court or be in front of a judge.  However, in the other districts of North Carolina, there are confirmation hearings. While neither system is necessarily better, they are different.

Further, within the Western District of North Carolina, there are a number of divisions.  The Statesville Division of the Western District of North Carolina includes certain counties (Iredell, Wilkes, Alexandra, Catawba, Caldwell, Watauga, Ashe, and Allegany), the Charlotte Division has certain counties (Gaston, Mecklenburg, Union and Aneon), the Asheville Division has others (Transylvania, Henderson, Buncombe, Yancy, Mitchell, Avery, Madison and Haywood), and the Bryson City division captures the remaining (Swain, Graham, Cherokee, Clay, Macon and Jackson).  You can see a map here.  So, if a couple lives in zip code 28115, they will file in the Statesville division.  If they file a Chapter 13, Mr. Steven Tate will be their Chapter 13 Trustee.  If they filed a Chapter 7, they would have one of a number of different Trustees.  However, if a couple’s zip code were 28078, they would file in the Charlotte Division.  They would have Mr. Warren Tadlock as their Chapter 13 Trustee.  Someone in the Statesville Division would NEVER have the same Chapter 13 Trustee as someone in the Charlotte Division.  However,if someone files a Chapter 7 Trustee in the Statesville Division, Wayne Sigmon may be the Trustee and he is also the Trustee in Charlotte division cases.

A map of the districts in North Carolina. We are located in the Western District but also have attorneys who practice in the Middle District.

What’s the point?  Essentially, every Trustee has different approaches and requirements.  Every district has different local rules and regulation.  Each state has different laws that apply.  So, even though Bankruptcy law is Federal, the wide variety of differences make it very important to hire an attorney and ask your attorney to help you with any aspect of your bankruptcy case.  Online searching is great, but cannot replace a knowledgeable, experienced attorney who advocates for you and knows the local rules!  Here at Collum & Perry, our office strives to assist all of our clients in achieving the best possible result from what is otherwise an untenable situation.