Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin

Editor: W. Patrick Tandy

April, 2004

 

Consumer Bankruptcy Committee
Poised to Become MSBA Section

By Janet Stidman Eveleth


Last April, 10 consumer bankruptcy attorneys gathered to organize and launch MSBA’s new Consumer Bankruptcy Committee. This April, the Committee, now boasting 250+ members, is poised to become an MSBA Section, pending MSBA membership approval at the Annual Meeting in June. This remarkable success is attributed to the Committee’s effective outreach and service to consumer bankruptcy lawyers across Maryland.

Bankruptcy filings continue to flood the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland. There were 33,942 filings in 2003 alone and over 90 percent of these were consumer filings, placing consumer bankruptcy lawyers in very high demand. Because the needs of consumer bankruptcy attorneys differ from those handling corporate bankruptcies, MSBA created a new Consumer Bankruptcy Committee last spring to address the special interests of consumer bankruptcy practitioners.

“We identified a need and created a committee under the auspices of MSBA to represent the collective wisdom of consumer bankruptcy lawyers,” exclaims Alan Belsky, Chair of MSBA’s Consumer Bankruptcy Committee. “The need for a consumer bankruptcy practitioners group was very high,” Belsky continues. “This is the first organization that assists practitioners with the myriad of issues they face.”

“We received a very enthusiastic response,” he continues – so enthusiastic, in fact, that this MSBA entity has jumped from 10 to 250+ members in just twelve months, engaging most of the state’s consumer bankruptcy practitioners. Belsky attributes this incredible growth to grassroots marketing, word of mouth and the Committee’s Email List. “We’re still growing,” he adds, and with this healthy membership the Committee hopes to become an MSBA Section.

“As a Section, our Committee members will have additional opportunities, support and funding from MSBA,” Belsky affirms. “Section status will give us a greater voice and participation in MSBA. Our fundamental goal is to be a formal, statewide organization that gives us cohesiveness across the state, and this will be accomplished as an MSBA Section. “We want to create a dialogue among all practitioners, enhance communication between them, update them on new laws and ensure clients are adequately represented.”

Today, MSBA’s Consumer Bankruptcy Committee serves as the voice for consumer bankruptcy attorneys across Maryland. This valuable MSBA consumer bankruptcy resource “brings practitioners together and gives us a more unified approach,” explains Belsky. It has fostered communication among the state’s consumer bankruptcy practitioners and strengthened their presence in Maryland’s Legislature.

The Committee supports practitioners, addresses legislative issues, offers educational programs and generally serves the needs of its members. It monitors federal and local legislation, bankruptcy cases, local rules and court procedures that impact consumer bankruptcy practitioners and consumers. It also voices views on proposed laws, procedures and reforms and updates members on the impact and ramifications these proposals will have on clients and law practitioners.

One of the Committee’s most popular services, according to Belsky, is its active Email List, which registers 30-40 postings a day on a variety of topics. This open line of communication benefits practitioners by allowing them to exchange information, share ideas and receive assistance with everything from forms and motions to new case laws.

In addition, the Committee issues updates on current legal developments, bankruptcy reform legislation, case law and local rule changes and has generated a forms databank for member use. It offers discounts on MICPEL programs and is in the process of developing CLE sessions addressing consumer bankruptcy issues. Its educational offerings also target other practice areas that are affected by bankruptcy law, like family law practitioners and personal injury attorneys.

All of these initiatives will continue when the Committee makes the transition to a Section. In addition, as a Section it will establish a webpage on MSBA’s website and create a mentoring network so that more seasoned members may share their expertise, knowledge and experience with newer members. The Section will also serve as a consumer bankruptcy referral source for all members. A newsletter and other new services are on the drawing board for the future.

This Committee already functions as a communication and information forum for consumer bankruptcy practitioners. This role will continue, and its voice will be strengthened when the Committee becomes a Section. Its membership and services are likely to expand as well.

On February 17, MSBA’s Board of Governors voted to support the Consumer Bankruptcy Committee’s quest to become a Section. The matter will be decided when MSBA’s membership takes up this issue during the MSBA Annual Meeting’s Business Meeting on Saturday, June  19, 2004. Once approved, the Consumer Bankruptcy Section will become MSBA’s 23rd Section.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: April, 2004

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