Attorney Programs

Access to Justice Bankruptcy Pro Bono & Low Bono Attorney Panel FAQs

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A. The Challenge

According to court records and media reports, the Washington metropolitan area has a higher-than-average ratio of bankruptcy petitions, a significant portion of which are filed by Debtors without the assistance of an attorney. Unfortunately, these pro se Debtors create avoidable challenges for themselves and the other key participants in bankruptcy proceedings, including judges, trustees and creditors that are typically represented by counsel. Common, but avoidable, errors by pro se filers, routinely surface aroundstandard bankruptcy forms, due process and key deadlines - some of which have statutory triggers that cannot be waived or excused. These avoidable challenges in turn lead to adverse outcomes for pro se Debtors. This situation is likely to become worse forlocal consumers due to the COVID-19 recession, particularly around housing and medical debt issues.

B. The Program

The Bar Association of the District of Columbia’s (“BADC”) Bankruptcy Law Section established the Access to Justice Committee (“BADC-ATJ”) in October 2020 to address the local access-to-justice crisis for consumers of modest means who are tryingto navigate the U.S. Bankruptcy Court system and the complexities of bankruptcy law without the benefit of bankruptcy counsel under Chapter 7 (liquidation) or Chapter 13 (reorganization) of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. The BADC-ATJ’s mission is to work in collaboration with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia, as well as state and local legal services organizations, to increase access to counsel or direct legal assistance for consumers who either are unable to find affordable lawyers, or who otherwise need pro bono legal services in bankruptcy proceedings.

C. The Benefits

Panel participation offers a unique opportunity for experience in bankruptcy court. Pro bono and low bono service has also proven to be very beneficial to newer lawyers and more tenured lawyers who are transitioning from the full-time practice of law. If interested, please complete an Attorney Panel Application and return it to the Bar Association of the Districtof Columbia, Attention: Najiba Hlemi, BADC-ATJ Pro Bono Panel Coordinator ([email protected]).

D. Questions

For more information, please contact BADC Access to Justice Committee Chair, Anitra Ash-Shakoor, Esq. at [email protected].

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