VLJ has been assisting clients with bankruptcy matters since our inception and the need for bankruptcy assistance continues to grow. VLJ partners with attorneys from Merck, Prudential, Lowenstein Sandler, Rutgers Law School, and attorneys from the private bar. VLJ organizes a bankruptcy intake clinic in collaboration with Prudential, in which Prudential attorneys meet with potential clients to determine if they are good candidates for Chapter 7 bankruptcies through VLJ’s full representation program. Once a client has been accepted to the program, VLJ works with the client to collect credit reports and other necessary paperwork. Volunteer lawyers are then paired with clients so that they can review documents, draft petitions, and appear at Section 341 meetings, representing clients through discharge.
Who can participate?
The bankruptcy intake clinic is limited to attorneys from Prudential, but full representation cases are open to all attorneys. Prior experience working on bankruptcy issues is preferable but not required. Attorneys must be admitted to practice before the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.
What do volunteers do?
VLJ thoroughly screens all potential bankruptcy clients for financial and geographic eligibility, and to ensure that the client is appropriate for our program. Prior to placement with a volunteer attorney, VLJ works with clients to collect preliminary documents that volunteer attorneys need to move forward with the Chapter 7 petition. This includes a credit report, bank statements, and tax returns, among other documents. Once VLJ determines that a client is ready for placement, we contact the pro bono coordinators with Merck and Lowenstein Sandler or refer the case to the Rutgers pro bono project. If we are seeking assistance from a private bar attorney outside of those offices, the case is placed on our case opportunities list which is posted on our web site. If you are interested in taking the case, just email the program lead and we will send you conflict information. If you have no conflicts, you will quickly receive the client file and other case opening information. You will be expected to contact your client, arrange an initial meeting, prepare and file the Chapter 7 petition, and see the case through to discharge. You are NOT required to represent the client in any adversary proceedings that arise, unless you choose to and enter into a separate agreement with the client.
How to sign up
If you are admitted to the District Court, have some bankruptcy experience, and are interested in representing clients in Chapter 7 cases, please fill out the volunteer registration form. If you work at Merck or Lowenstein Sandler, please talk to your pro bono coordinator about how to get involved.