Bob Lawless of Credit Slips is predicting that bankruptcy filings, which fell by 11% in 2014, will once again fall in 2015. Using statistical models based on prior years, Lawless says, “My prediction for 2015 bankruptcies is somewhere around 800,000, which would be another decline of 12%.”
Lawless is usually in the right ballpark when it comes to forecasting bankruptcy filings (he correctly pegged the 2014 numbers), so I’m inclined to believe his forecast for 2015. And that scares me, not only for the profession but also for the consumers who need our help.
This past year saw a number of my colleagues leave the field. Some went into other areas of law, and others decided that this was a good time to retire from the practice entirely. If this trend continues, there will be few seasoned bankruptcy attorneys available to help people who do need our help.
Demand will rise eventually, as it always does. Our consumer-driven economy dictates that people will get into financial difficulties and need the relief that bankruptcy offers. When they do, who will they turn to?
New lawyers will take the place of those who have left the field, but without a significant number of experienced attorneys in a position to mentor them, there are sure to be lapses in knowledge and information.
Without a ready supply of experienced bankruptcy lawyers, consumers will have no choice but to hire newer attorneys. That’s not a bad thing (we were all new lawyers at one time) but if those attorneys don’t have the benefit of local mentors there’s sure to be a lower standard of client care.
Bankruptcy bar associations such as NACBA and training programs by experienced lawyers such as Cathy Moran serve to mitigate the problem, but nothing compares to an experienced local bar when it comes to getting help with questions of procedure as they relate to your particular judges.
For that reason, I hope more of my colleagues choose to use other fields of law to supplement their practices rather than abandon bankruptcy altogether. Your future clients need you.