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, the private bar, and those volunteering with the Hon. Morris Stern Pro Bono Bankruptcy Project at Rutgers Law School. 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 attorneys receive the complete client file, they are expected to contact the 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 for the District of New Jersey, have some bankruptcy experience (or have attended a VLJ training), and are interested in representing clients in Chapter 7 cases, please fill out the volunteer registration form (below). If you work at Merck, Lowenstein Sandler, or Prudential, please talk to your pro bono coordinator about how to get involved. If you are interested in taking a case on the case opportunities list, you should email the VLJ staff person on the case list who will then send you conflict information.