I’ve been practicing law since 1980. A major portion of my practice, throughout those decades, has been in bankruptcy and related areas of law. And I’ve represented all sides: debtors, creditors, trustees, committees, etc.
During that time, I’ve counseled hundreds of family businesses and their owners—helping each walk through a period of economic stress. And I’ve filed bankruptcy for many dozens of them.
High Degree of Difficulty
Representing family businesses experiencing financial stress is, I believe, one of the highest degree-of-difficulty areas of practice to be found. Here’s why:
- Every unsolved legal problem they’ve ever had comes to a head and must be dealt with in some way;
- There are few easy or simple solutions—decisions become choices between unsatisfactory alternatives;
- When bankruptcy is needed, the decision to file is usually made with regret—often amid tears of shame;
- The Bankruptcy Code and related laws create a complex legal system for which specialization is essential; and
- Getting paid by a financially strapped client is a challenge and an ever-present risk.
In the course of representing family businesses and their owners, over four decades, I’ve learned many lessons—mostly the hard way. I call these lessons my “hard-knocks rules.”
But this area of practice also has its rewards. I remember, in the early 1980s, helping a sole proprietor obtain a bankruptcy discharge. Nearly a decade later, he reintroduced himself to me at a public event, expressing gratitude for helping him through a difficult time and onto his feet.
A Series of Articles
So, I’m planning to publish, from time to time, a series of articles on representing family businesses who are experiencing financial stress. And I hope to discuss some of those hard-knocks lessons I’ve learned.
I hope and trust the series will be helpful.
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