Having now practiced bankruptcy law for over thirty years, I find that I am often the “old guy” amongst gatherings of bankruptcy practitioners. It is sometimes hard to figure out how this happened so quickly. It seems like such a short time ago that I was getting started in the legal field. I remember clearly the early days of practice when virtually everything I did was new to me. When Mark Bond and I started our practice, we first had to lease space, hire help and determine how we were going to pay the bills. I now find myself on what is likely the back end of my career and sometimes reflect on what I have learned. Not to say that I am done learning, because as an attorney I am always “practicing”. I hope to keep practicing and keep learning for many years to come.
So what have I learned? As a bankruptcy attorney, what is the most important thing that I do? Yes, I still have to deal with the management end of running a practice. We still need to lease space in which to run our practice, hire help and earn enough money to pay the bills. We meet with prospective clients, evaluate their situations, come up with a plan to help them overcome the challenges they face, and prepare documents to be filed with courts and advocate their positions to the best of our ability. Each and every case has its unique nuances. Our clients are individuals and no two situations are the same. So each day brings new challenges and opportunities.
Compassion Is What We Do
But one thing runs central to everything we do. It is the one thing that I try to instill in every member of our team. We simply must exercise compassion in each and every situation we encounter. We need to be sympathetic to the needs of others and aware of the challenges they face.
Yes, exercising compassion is morally the right thing to do. And as a Christian, I believe it to be one of the Lord’s greatest commandments. For when Christ was asked “Which commandment is the most important of all?”, he answered “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:28-31 Loving your neighbor means caring for and about your neighbor. Loving your neighbor means showing compassion to your neighbor.
Compassion in Bankruptcy
But showing compassion is not only morally right, it is also a good business practice! Because I can assure you, your clients, the people you work with in your practice, court officials and fellow attorneys know when you are being sincere and when you truly care about the work you do. Your compassion should show through in everything you do.
As a bankruptcy attorney, I have learned that that good people can have money problems. Good people have health problems. Good people have employment problems. Good people take chances and experience business failures. Good people have marital and other family problems. All of these problems can lead to financial challenges, and financial challenges can be very difficult to first acknowledge and then develop the resolve to deal with. The first, and most important, step in dealing with financial challenges is often to reach out to a bankruptcy attorney.
So to be good bankruptcy attorneys, we must have a desire to help those who reach out to us for help. We must exercise compassion. The people who work with us must exercise compassion. We must wake up and come into the office every day with a sincere desire to help others. Our clients are real people facing what are often very difficult and emotional challenges. Being compassionate is the most important thing we do.