What Is the Debt Relief Clinic?
A little over a year ago, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge, Suzanne Bauknight, introduced our bankruptcy bar to a program to help those in need of debt relief. She had been told of similar programs operating in other areas of the country. In partnership with Legal Aid of East Tennessee and the Knoxville Bar Association, she launched a pro bono debt relief clinic. The clinic is held on Saturday mornings quarterly.
What Happens During the Clinic
At each clinic, Judge Bauknight does an overview of bankruptcy law and debtors rights. Then, the Judge leaves and members of the Knoxville bankruptcy bar meet with individuals in need of debt relief. These candidates are vetted through Legal Aid of East Tennessee. Legal Aid requires candidates to fill out initial paperwork to see what approximately what they owe, what they own, and what their income and expenses run each month. With this information, the attorneys who participate can give general legal advice regarding their debt. If the potential client needs to file bankruptcy, the attorney can choose to do the bankruptcy pro bono or refer it on to someone else.
By and large, the people we talk to at the clinics and in our office each day are scared, stressed and worn down by the debt. They need a kind, listening ear to guide them in the right direction. Bankruptcy may not always be the best option for the problems they face. Whether at the clinic or at our office desk, we do our best to provide the guidance and tools needed to get them past their debt burden.
The Clinic’s One Year Anniversary
On August 13, 2018, Judge Bauknight hosted a reception to thank those who participated in the clinic in the first year. The Judge and Kathryn Ellis, the Pro Bono Project Director from Legal Aid of East Tennessee, presented certificates of appreciation to those who have volunteered their time. Cindy and I were very honored to have been involved in the program this past year and look forward to serving in years to come. The next debt relief legal advice clinic is November 3, 2018 from 9:30 an-12:00 pm at the Knox County Public Defender’s Community Law Office, but you must be pre-screened. For more information visit www.laet.org.
Heather Ellis Banks is an Associate Attorney at the Bond & Botes Law Offices in Knoxville, Tennessee. She holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Tennessee Knoxville, and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Memphis, Cecil.C. Humphreys School of Law. She has been helping consumers to navigate through the bankruptcy process since 2005. Read her full bio here.