The United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts has requested nominations for its third annual Pro Bono Recognition Awards. The awards recognize individuals or organizations that have improved access to volunteer legal services in Massachusetts. Nominations must be submitted by September 14, 2015. Attorneys who have performed volunteer legal services that meet criteria established by the Court’s Pro Bono Legal Services Advisory Committee are invited to submit certifications by September 14, 2015. Attorneys who meet the criteria will receive recognition on the Court’s Honor Roll. A recognition ceremony for Honor Roll members and the winners of the Pro Bono Recognition Awards will be held in Springfield on October 15, 2015. For more information, please click here.
How many times have you wished that your client’s divorce attorney had thought about the bankruptcy implications of their separation agreement before drafting it? Well family law practitioners feel the same way about us! So, on Wednesday, June 17th from 5:30pm to 7:00pm, bankruptcy and family law attorneys will be coming together at the BBA to discuss these practice areas intersect and to offer each other words to the wise. The conversation will be led by Will Parks and Steve Striffler, on the bankruptcy side, and Cal Heinle and Cynthia Gover Hastings on the family law side.
Let’s get together, help each other be better lawyers, and drink some wine! What could be better on a Wednesday evening in June?
Please RSVP here.
If you have any family law questions that you would like to have addressed by the panelists, please email them to Kate Nicholson ([email protected]).
Kate E. Nicholson
Nicholson Shepard LLC
875 Mass Ave., Ste. 31
Cambridge, MA 02139
T (857) 600-0508
F (617) 812-0405
On behalf of the Bankruptcy Section, I would like to recognize John Loughnane as he finishes his two years as section co-chair. John has brought his unflagging energy and tremendous people skills to keep the section running through one excellent program after another, culminating in a spectacular 25th Bench Bar Conference at the Omni Parker House and a memorable commemorative book of the Bankruptcy Section and its predecessor Bankruptcy Committee. He has been a model to me over the past year in what a section chair should do. I and newly appointed section co-chair Ethan Jeffery look forward to walking the path trod by John and his predecessors.
Adam J. Ruttenberg
Posternak Blankstein & Lund LLP
800 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02199-8004
On June 8, 2015, the First Circuit Court of Appeals issued a press release announcing that Christopher Panos has been selected to fill the upcoming vacancy in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts created by Judge William C. Hillman’s retirement and Chief Judge Hoffman’s relocation to Boston. Attorney Panos will sit in Worcester, Massachusetts.
The full press release is available here:
Earlier this month, the Bankruptcy Court announced the implementation of a court‐sponsored pro bono attorney program for unrepresented indigent litigants in adversary proceedings. The full announcement is available here.
The program will begin accepting applications from litigants on July 1, 2015. You can obtain the program guidelines, FAQs for attorneys, FAQs for Parties, and attorneys interested in participating on the pro bono panel can find the registration form here.
A couple of exciting events are on the calendar for next week:
Brown Bag Lunch: On Tuesday, May 12 at 12:00 p.m. at the Boston Bar Association, the Consumer Bankruptcy Committee will be hosting Proofs of Claims in Chapter 13’s: Standing Order 2015-03, New Practices, and Best Practices. If you would like to attend this event, you can register here.
Bench Meets Bar Conference: On Thursday, May 14 from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., the Bankruptcy Section celebrates the 25th Annual Bankruptcy Bench Meets Bar Conference. The Bankruptcy Section is bringing the program back to the historic Omni Parker House, the site of the first Bankruptcy Bench Meets Bar Conference. If you would like to attend this event, you can register here.
The United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts recently issued Standing Order 2015-03. The Standing Order sets forth changes to Massachusetts Local Bankruptcy Rule 13-13, which details the procedure for filing and objecting to claims. The amended rule includes several new subsections and applies to all cases commenced on or after May 1, 2015. To view the Standing Order and amended rule, please click here.
On March 15, the SJC promulgated new rules of Professional Responsibility, effective July 1, 2015 (available here). Of interest to bankruptcy lawyers is comment 2A to Rule 1.15. That comment provides that a lawyer is not required to deposit a “flat fee” (an all-in agreed amount for specific work) in a client trust account, and can immediately place the funds in the law firm’s operating account. The comment originated with the SJC’s own Standing Advisory Committee on the Rules of Professional Conduct. During the public-comment period, the BBA Bankruptcy Section championed the Advisory Committee’s proposed comment, while another Committee expressed concerns. The BBA reported the views of the two constituencies to the SJC, which accepted the position of the Bankruptcy Section.
The new language protects lawyers who represent a chapter 7 debtor and, although more rare, counsel who represents a chapter 11 debtor—as compared with a debtor-in-possession. The Bankruptcy Section’s concerns were that 1) any funds that were still subject to conditions at the time of a bankruptcy filing would become property of the estate, and 2) under Lamie v. U.S. Trustee, 540 U.S. 526 (2004), a debtor’s counsel is not entitled to compensation for post-petition work. The combination of those two factors would make it impossible for a debtor’s attorney to access the funds to be paid for the services rendered once a petition for relief was filed, except to the extent that the lawyer could establish what percentage of the work had been completed pre-petition.
The comment makes clear that a lawyer must return money paid for services where the lawyer has failed to complete the anticipated work, as provided in Rule 1.16(d). Obviously this new rule does not affect the powers of the Bankruptcy Court to review fees and, where appropriate, order a lawyer to repay them or otherwise make provisions relating to fees. Rather, the new rule removes any ethical taint from a lawyer’s election not to deposit a flat fee in a trust account.
A lawyer is still free to deposit flat fees into a trust account, in which event the lawyer must comply with all the rules applicable to such accounts.
On April 6, 2015, new members of the Boston bankruptcy bar, together with numerous law students, gathered at the Boston Bar Association to participate in the 8th Annual Young Bar Meets the Bankruptcy Bench event. As in past years, the program was well attended and received the robust support of the Massachusetts bankruptcy bench. All of the bankruptcy judges from the District of Massachusetts were in attendance – Judge Bailey, Judge Boroff, Judge Feeney, Judge Hillman, and Chief Judge Hoffman. The Clerk of the Bankruptcy Court, James Lynch, also participated. The program kicked off with an informative question and answer session covering topics such as written presentations, oral argument, and careers in bankruptcy practice. Thereafter, the participants had the opportunity to engage with the judges in an intimate round table format. The program was co-chaired by Ben Chapman of Brown Rudnick and David Koha of Casner & Edwards, who also co-chair the Boston Bar Association Bankruptcy Section’s New Bankruptcy Lawyers Committee.
Several exciting bankruptcy-related events are taking place in and around Boston in the coming weeks, including:
The American College of Bankruptcy’s The World of Insolvency, a panel discussion on the importance of effective domestic and cross-border insolvency and creditor-debtor regimes to commerce and economic growth. The program will be held at Boston College Law School in Newton, MA from 1:00-4:00 p.m. on March 20, 2015. Please click here for more information and to register.
A Lunch Bunch session with Judge Joan N. Feeney will be held at the US Bankruptcy Court in Boston on April 2, 2015, at 11:45 a.m. For more information and to register, please click here.
The Young Bar Meets Bankruptcy Bench event has been rescheduled for April 6, 2015, from 4:30-6:30 p.m. The program will focus on practical skills and issues particularly important for those in their first ten years of practice. For more information and to register, please click here.
Student Loan Debt and Bankruptcy: Addressing the Problem and Finding Solutions, a CLE program, will be held on April 10, 2015, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the offices of the Boston Bar Association. Click here for more information and to register.