Consumer Bankruptcy Journal Spring 2017 - Page 9

COUNSELING BANKRUPTCY CLIENTS

protecting the income resources and property of citizens . How it is healthy for our economy , if persons and families can have a fresh financial start , to be more productive , instead of being mired in old debt .
I believe it is helpful to explain to clients that they are not alone . That many others have the same problem . When I was counseling with potential bankruptcy clients , I would often say that very few people leave this life without having a serious financial struggle , at least at one point in their lives .
Furthermore , while the constitution expressly disfavors an entanglement of government with religion , our country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles . Passages regarding the forgiveness of debt riddle the Old Testament . “ Open thy mouth and plead the cause of the poor and needy ,” reads Proverbs 31 , verse 9 . If you find your clients have belief in the Bible , this often gives them comfort .
Hope is a powerful motivator . Clients should be given encouragement about the future . I have a small quote from a Roman philosopher , Seneca , hanging in a quiet corner of my office , it states , “ Many things have fallen only to rise higher ”. This reminds me to offer encouragement to debtors .
When I was senior partner of my former bankruptcy law firm , OlsenDaines , I missed a NACBA convention . I told my brother , who is also a partner at OlsenDaines , to return and bring back at least one good idea . When he returned , he handed me a brochure that explained about a credit restoration program for persons that had filed bankruptcy , called 720 creditscore . com . I got on the website . I immediately recognized how helpful this would be to our clients . Years ago I had written a booklet about credit restoration for our clients , that was out of date and no longer used . I picked up the phone , and called the owner and founder , Phil Tirone . I reviewed his program and our firm immediately contracted with Phil to make this available to our clients . We chose to offer this as part of our service , at no additional cost .
That was over three years ago , and although I am now helping the poor and lower income seniors who don ’ t need bankruptcy through HELPS , Phil and I still talk about different topics several times a year . I believe anything we as attorneys can do to help our clients get on with their lives , to live it in a better way , is a good thing . Clients are very appreciative that not only were we able to solve their old debt problems through bankruptcy , we gave them a leg up to reestablish their credit .
Debt collectors will never inform persons about the laws protecting their incomes or assets . Despite state and federal laws to protect debtors from predatory creditors , harassment does happen . Some collectors will say just about anything to generate guilt in attempts to collect debt . Bankruptcy attorneys help these same debtors by informing them about the laws , and the reasons for the laws that protect their rights . HELPS is happy to provide attorneys a flyer about guilt and debt to provide bankruptcy clients by emailing eolsen @ helpsishere . org .
The guilt over unpaid debt is an understandable struggle . Many of our clients have a hard time affording themselves the same compassion they would grant to others . Some things , however , are objectively impossible . Even if I was offered a million dollars , I could not run and complete , an ultramarathon tomorrow . The humility gained by recognizing not everything is within our control , can become an invaluable tool for self-forgiveness . As Helen Keller said , “ failures become victories if they make us wise hearted .”
Persons suffering from guilt regarding bankruptcies and financial failure should be helped and given peace of mind . They can be counseled and helped to understand that they are not alone . This is a step to restart their financial goals , and their chance to give back to society . They need feel no guilt . I believe it is our responsibility to give this freedom to our clients .
Eric W . Olsen Executive Director HELPS Nonprofit Law Firm . HELPS is a nationwide nonprofit law firm that educates lower income seniors how they can maintain their financial independence . HELPS also protects lower income seniors and disabled , who do not need to file bankruptcy , from collector harassment and assists other attorneys in that same mission .
National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys Spring 2017 CONSUMER BANKRUPTCY JOURNAL 9