VLJ has been assisting clients with bankruptcy matters since our inception. As the economy worsened over the past decade, requests for bankruptcy assistance grew. So has VLJ’s Bankruptcy Program, which began with a handful of volunteers taking direct referrals. Now, VLJ partners with attorneys from Merck, Lowenstein Sandler, the Honorable Morris Stern Pro Bono Bankruptcy Project at Rutgers School of Law, and attorneys from the private bar. In this program that is co-sponsored by Merck & Co., Inc., volunteer lawyers are paired with clients who require assistance with Chapter 7 bankruptcies. Volunteer attorneys review client files, work with clients to collect necessary documents, draft petitions, and appear at Section 341 meetings, representing clients through discharge.
Who can participate?
Prior experience working on bankruptcy issues is preferable. Attorneys must be admitted to practice before the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. VLJ has training materials on bankruptcy that must be reviewed prior to volunteering.
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 emailed out on the first and third Wednesdays of each month. If you are interested in taking the case, just respond to the email 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.