Professors Present at 'Bankruptcy for Beginners' Seminar - Kick Off National Pro Bono Week
WMU-Cooley Law School Adjunct Professors Hon. Catherine Peek McEwen and Victor H. Veschio joined members of the Hillsborough County Bar Association to present “Bankruptcy for Beginners,” a pro bono seminar. The seminar was held at the Chester H. Ferguson Law Center in Tampa, Florida, on Oct. 20. The panel included a judicial panel from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, local bankruptcy attorneys, and the Chapter 13 Trustee for the District.
The event, which is believed to be the first of its kind in Florida, provided local attorneys an opportunity to learn bankruptcy basics and receive CLE credit based on the National Consumer Law Center’s new training modules. In exchange, each attendee made a commitment to take at least one pro bono bankruptcy matter from a local pro bono bankruptcy clinic.
McEwen, who serves as judge for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida, said the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida has the highest pro se filings per judge in our nation, reflecting the need of pro bono representation for these filers to assist in the maze of bankruptcy practice and procedure.
“I am honored by the success of this event and the collaborative effort and support of Bay Area Legal Services, the Tampa Bay Bankruptcy Bar Association, the Hillsborough County Bar Association, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and-most important, the attorneys who attended the seminar and dedicated themselves to represent at least one pro se litigant in bankruptcy,” said McEwen. “Within the next year, we will have at least 50 pro se litigants represented by these generous attorneys.”
Veschio, director of WMU-Cooley’s Debt Relief Clinic, presented on the pre-bankruptcy filing considerations ranging from fact gathering to properly counseling consumers related to bankruptcy issues and state law exemptions and the judgment-proof debtor. He emphasized the need for empathy in counseling candidates for bankruptcy protection.
“As lawyers, we are trained in law and how to handle facts, but not feelings and emotions,” said Veschio. “Bankruptcy consumers are in need of compassion and empathy under the circumstances and the bankruptcy practitioner must be aware of this; especially through pro bono representation in this area of the law.”
About Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School: Western Michigan University and Thomas M. Cooley Law School affiliated in 2014, combining the status of a nationally-ranked, public, comprehensive research university with the commitment to practical legal education of an independent, non-profit, national law school. WMU-Cooley is accredited by both the American Bar Association and the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association. The law school has provided nearly 20,000 graduates with the practical skills necessary for a seamless transition from academia to the real world, and enrolls classes in January, May, and September at its Lansing, Auburn Hills, and Grand Rapids, Michigan campuses, and its Tampa Bay, Florida campus. WMU and the law school continue to operate as independent institutions with their own governance structure and separate fiduciary responsibilities.