Levy and I first met about a year ago when I was writing a feature story for The C-J about the sharp growth in personal bankruptcy filings in the metro area. His schedule was packed then, and it’s still packed now. Levy tells clients that they shouldn’t be embarrassed to file. Those “creative” home loans that got us into this economic mess are still a problem for many people, and credit card companies are slapping 20 percent APRs on loyal customers to make up for the industry’s new regulations. Levy has practiced bankruptcy law almost exclusively for the past 10 years. He takes cases that other lawyers turn down because they’re too complicated.
I sit through two initial consultations with new clients, and get a quick feel for how satisfying it can be to help people who are in serious financial trouble. For the most part, the process is fairly routine. Levy asks a series of questions: How long have you lived in Kentucky? Do you own any real estate? Have you previously filed for bankruptcy? He scribbles down answers on a yellow legal pad, then describes the two most common options: Chapter 7, usually for those with less income and fewer assets, and Chapter 13, which takes longer but allows the client to keep more property. The initial meeting takes less than an hour, and by the end of each consultation I can see the relief spreading across the faces of the people sitting at Levy’s desk. It’s not always this easy, he tells me later. Some people wait too long before they seek help. Others struggle to accept the realities of bankruptcy, such as being forced to lower donations to their church. But for the most part, Levy likes bankruptcy law. He’s settled there after also practicing in real estate, divorce, and criminal law.
I sit in Levy’s office for three hours, listening to him talk to clients, and fiddling with the buttons on the new suit coat that I bought the night before. When I picked it up the next morning, Gary, my “wardrobe consultant” at Men’s Wearhouse on Shelbyville Road, said I looked like a million-dollar bill waiting for change. It was my first new suit in nine years. I left Levy’s office with a very positive impression. I’m sure bankruptcy law isn’t for everyone, but the experience to me was fascinating. Clients open a window into their troubled finances, and the help you provide gives them a way to get back on their feet. Levy is waging a one-man sword fight against giant credit-card companies and mortgage lenders, and he seems to win most of the time. It’s also hard to argue about a job that gets nice and busy when the rest of the economy is in the toilet. Stay tuned for more job shadow reports in the next 10 days. My next assignment: the personal injury lawyer.