I went to law school to be a labor lawyer. Before I got to law school, I did not really even know what lawyers did, but up to that time the my jobs were on farms, in a warehouse and on construction sites. Northeastern Pennsylvania was at that time still very Pro-Union. The trade unions were, in my mind, very proud organizations tracing back to the United Mine Workers.
So I took some classes in labor and employment law but could never really get interested. What was taught in law school did not seem to have much to do with the worksites I had been on. In fact most of it seemed so academic that I gradually lost interest.
I started in practice with no real direction until I started to do bankruptcy and financial cases. Money seemed like a pretty good thing to learn about, so I kept at it, handling hundreds of bankruptcies for debtors, and participating in many more on behalf of creditors. I was very active in this until Congress changed the law in 2005.
Bankruptcy is a hard job for a lawyer and Congress really added some homework to the process with the Amendments to the Code. What is worse is that the reforms were premised on the assumption lawyers and their bankruptcy clients were abusing the system. As I thought of all those hundreds of individuals and all the businesses I had counseled, represented and litigated for, I became more and more chagrined. In all those years, there had only been one or two people who, I felt, were trying to commit bankruptcy fraud and I had refused to represent them.
All the rest were ordinary people – teachers, office workers, cab drivers, students, and contractors, who simply had made poor borrowing decisions and obtained credit on terrible terms.
What Congress had done was so offensive to me that I greatly reduced the scale of my involvement with bankruptcies. I thought about a way to help people get out of financial trouble without having to file bankruptcy under these new laws over the last few years, and finally decided to start making a special effort to reach out to these people. At times, the irony of my earlier career decision strikes me. My representation of people who feel they cannot afford a lawyer and have nowhere else to go is designed to work for working people and for small businesses.
Maybe I turned out to be a labor lawyer after all.