The purpose of the Bankruptcy Pro Se Assistance Clinic is to provide quick answers to sometimes easy, sometimes complicated questions in a 30-minute consultation. You must be able to quickly spot issues and get right to the core of each person’s problem.
Each client will arrive with a different situation. You will see both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 issues; some people will have already filed their cases and some will not. While you have only 30 minutes, you must be able to answer the question(s) that the client has and bring attention to the questions the client does not know to ask. Quite often, the ultimate answer is that you cannot completely answer all of the questions or address all of the issues and that the client should obtain competent legal counsel.
A good way to initiate discussion is to inquire why the client signed up for the meeting. Some people have very specific questions; others are looking for direction. The client will most likely bring papers with him or her, so a review of those papers is a good starting point.
While each situation is different, the following questions are often appropriate:
If time allows, you can also discuss specific dischargeability issues, fraudulent transfers, titling of property and other more advanced topics.
The bottom line is – you are trying to “stabilize” the situation by determining the heart of the problem quickly, answer the client’s questions, provide useful information and guide them in the right direction.
Finally, discuss the next step for the client to take after your meeting concludes. Hopefully, the client will be “stabilized”, and you will have convinced him or her to seek competent legal advice instead of trying to navigate the complex bankruptcy system on his or her own. Remember our goal: to increase the likelihood that the client has a successful outcome to their bankruptcy case.