“Consumer” Bankruptcy Attorney? Or “Business” Bankruptcy Attorney? Maybe a Little Clarification.

I completed the Judicial Performance Survey for two of the judges I have appeared before.  One of the questions gripes me because it shows the bias of the system.  The question is whether you are a consumer attorney or a business attorney or both.  But then it asks this question:

During the past three years, has your consumer bankruptcy work been concentrated in chapter 7 or in chapter 13? (Please select one.)

It assumes that consumer bankruptcy attorneys do only chapter 7s or 13s.  That is largely true but still much too restrictive in my opinion.  I would like to note that in 2015, there were 402 chapter 11 cases filed in the Central District of California.  (There were actually 426 but I am counting the multiple Freedom Communications cases as one rather than about 24.)  Of the 402 cases, 203 were individual chapter 11 cases, in other words, an individual trying to save his home or rental property (usually).  That is 50% of all chapter 11s!  Those are almost entirely consumer cases filed by consumer bankruptcy attorneys.

Of the 109 individual chapter 11 cases I have filed (or subbed into) since the beginning of 2012, only one case was filed by a person for the primary purpose of saving a business.   For whatever it’s worth, I have also filed 31 “corporate cases” since 2012.  In 16 of those cases, the entity owned an operating business it was trying to save.  (Of those 16, 6 cases were filed because of the debtor’s problems with its landlord, good luck with those eh?)  The remainder of the corporate cases dealt with real property issues.

So where does all this leave us?  I think its fair to say that most “consumer” attorneys do not do chapter 11s at all or very, very rarely.  But I consider myself a consumer attorney when I file chapter 11s for individuals trying to save their homes or rental properties, or sometimes because of tax problems or business problems.    I personally do very few chapter 7s and almost no chapter 13s.  Those are handled by a different department at the firm.  I still consider myself largely a consumer bankruptcy attorney.

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