10 steps to building a bankruptcy practice

Many attorneys are trying to create a bankruptcy practice these days. Many make the critical mistake of using old-fashioned ways to get practice off the ground and end up being runners in their area as well. The competition is fierce and lawyers are working smarter, not just harder, to be successful.

Ten Steps to Developing a Successful Bankruptcy Practice

  1. Join the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys: This is the largest national organization dedicated to the plight of debtor consumers. With more than 4,400 member bankruptcy attorneys, it is the best source of information and continuing education for both new and established professionals. NACBA also runs some very active listservs to help members share information.
  2. Buy the entire library from the National Center for Consumer Law, including the consumer bankruptcy book: NCLC publishes the most comprehensive set of books on bankruptcy, consumer protection, and related topics. Period. After practicing bankruptcy law for over 14 years, I still refer to my books almost daily. If you attend any of the NACBA conventions, you will find NCLC books for sale at a significant discount.
  3. Try the request preparation software packages and get the one you like best: You cannot practice bankruptcy law without a petition preparation package. There are a lot of good ones out there – BestCase, EZFiling, Bankruptcy2010, and Bankruptcy Pro are among the best, but you won’t know which one is the best for you until you try them. They all provide a free downloadable demo to work with, so take the time before you spend a penny.
  4. Go to court: Find out where your court’s bankruptcy hearings are held and plan to sit there every day for a week or more. You will learn about trustees and the types of people who file bankruptcy in your area. Once you know more about who is filing bankruptcy, you will be in a better position to learn about their motivations and concerns.
  5. Register for CM / ECF: Most courts require bankruptcy attorneys to file cases electronically through the court’s electronic case filing system. You need to obtain a password and (in some places) attend training to learn how to present cases.
  6. Get a scanner: Bankruptcy is a paper-intensive practice area. If you don’t start scanning everything on your system now, you will go under. I personally use a Fujitsu ScanSnap and it is a lifesaver (plus it comes with a fully functional copy of Adobe Acrobat).
  7. Start reading bankruptcy blogs: There are a host of great resources online to help you stay up-to-date on the latest bankruptcy-related issues. Bankruptcy Law Network, BankruptcyProf Blog, and Bankruptcy Mastery are just a few important sites that can teach you a lot.
  8. Learn to write: Yes, you can write like a lawyer, but that’s not the point. You need to be able to communicate in a way that your prospects understand without a dictionary. Writing like an attorney is fine for judges, but clients need your facilitation.
  9. Legal Online Marketing Basics: Most people start their search for a bankruptcy attorney on a search engine, so it is important that you know the basics of legal online marketing. Start a blog, set up Twitter, and consider whether marketing your practice with video is right for you.
  10. Start building forms: Your bankruptcy practice will require you to be organized, so things like admission forms and withholding agreements are critical. The best places to find them are other attorneys. If you are on the NACBA server list, just ask and you will receive: there is no reason to pay money to get canned admission papers.

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