I belong to the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA), the only national organization devoted exclusively to serving consumer bankruptcy attorneys and their clients. The NACBA has over 4,000 members located in all 50 states.
The NACBA is a resource I use every day in my practice. Their website is filled with useful information for attorneys and for people wanting to learn more about the bankruptcy process. Every single day I receive emails from the NACBA Listserv where attorneys ask questions and receive answers from member attorneys throughout the nation.
NACBA’s Listserv is a vital resource for me. It allows me to ask questions to the brightest consumer bankruptcy attorneys in the nation. Sometimes I ask technical questions and other times I just want an opinion about how others have approached situations I am facing.
When you really get to know an area of law and you begin to feel like you have become an “expert” in your area, a strange thing happens. You begin to realize how much you really don’t know. You begin to question the deeper meaning of a legal phrase or section of the law. When you are young you assume things mean what they appear to say, but as you get older you keep running into examples of how a term can be defined in two opposite ways. You notice examples and cases where creative lawyers read the law differently than you do. What you assumed was safe now seems dangerous. That’s when you turn to the NACBA Listserv to see if others have dealt with the issue before. It’s a great help.
The NACBA helps me break the isolation of trying to figure out everything myself. Although I am deeply involved in our local bar association and I do frequently quiz the brightest bankruptcy minds in Nebraska, you reach a point where local attorneys have not encountered an issue before. Nebraska is a small state with a small number of bankruptcy cases filed each year. To get the best answer sometimes you need to ask a larger audience, an audience filled with the smartest consumer attorneys in the nation. NACBA fills that need.
NACBA does more than just sponsor a Listserv. It also sponsors the very best educational seminars on consumer bankruptcy topics. Last week the NACBA held its annual convention in Orlando, Florida and it conducted a 3-day seminar on the newest bankruptcy topics. The conventions spit out volumes of outlines, case law reviews, and practice guides that are delivered by nationally recognized speakers including law professors, judges, and prolific consumer attorneys.
Unfortunately, few local attorneys attend the NACBA conventions. They are not cheap and when choosing to spend travel dollars to attend a legal seminar or to take the family to the beach, most of us opt for the later. Most attorneys attend local educational seminars and the deciding factor in choosing a seminar is usually cost and location. (Nebraska attorneys must attend a minimum of 10 hours of continuing legal education each year.)
The good news is that NACBA seems poised to start the process of strengthening local consumer groups. According to conversations I have had with some of the national leaders, NACBA will begin to offer local Listservs in each circuit court area (Nebraska is in the 8th Circuit court system that includes Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Arkansas, and Missouri). Such Listservs would be a great service since all of the attorneys in this region must apply the bankruptcy decisions of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. In addition, such Listservs have the tendency to sponsor a greater regional community because attorneys who frequently ask and answer questions in the forum start a process of getting to know each other.
NACBA would be well served to focus its efforts on empowering local consumer attorney groups and to allow their great educational resources to be utilized in state-based educational seminars. The sharing of such resources and the creation of lawyers-helping-lawyers local Listservs would lead to increased membership and a renewed enthusiasm in consumer bankruptcy practice.