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The Community in Which Consumer Debtor Lawyers Reside 

posted by david lander

Just as tax and estate planning lawyers are part of a network of helpers that includes accountants and financial planners, consumer debtor attorneys should ideally be part of a network of able and responsible helpers. Sadly, since prospective consumer debtors lack financial resources, the availability and quality of their non lawyer helpers is suspect.  There is a network of credit counseling agencies but critics have long attacked the effectiveness and loyalty of their services. Many CDFI's and some neighborhood centers provide quality help, but they are very limited in number.  One of several reasons for these weaknesses is the "chicken and egg" dilemma, that the career line for these potential helpers is very limited and thus the training system for their preparation is likewise very limited.  

Currently, the training and education network for financial counselors and coaches who serve low and moderate income consumers is limited and diffuse. In fact, there is virtually no professional training path to a career as a financial counselor for consumers in financial distress. A brilliant new book "Financial Capability and Asset Building in Vulnerable Households, Theory and Practice," by Sherraden, Birkenmaier and Collins describes the training programs that do exist and the career paths for the potential "partners" of the consumer debtor attorney. A few social work schools are beginning to focus attention on this training and creating concentrations for students in financial counseling. Several of the best family life education programs, mostly at land grant schools also provide some courses and paths.  The military has historically filled a gap in this area and more recently the Center for Financial Responsibility has stepped into the void with the Consumer and Personal Finance courses at CUNY.  The conscientious consumer debtor attorney is a crucial part of the societial safety net and is besieged on all sides. Would that she had more and better trained fellow travelers.  


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