Recruitment and Training of Volunteers
In order to staff the programs discussed above, the recruitment and training of volunteer attorneys is of critical importance. The nonprofit groups and bar associations primarily serve this need, and the judges of the district regularly volunteer to speak at seminars.
Open Letter to the Bankruptcy Bar
In 2011, on behalf of the bankruptcy judges of the Central District of California, Chief Judge Peter H. Carroll published an open letter to the bankruptcy bar urging attorneys to consider volunteering for one of the pro bono opportunities available in their area. Former Chief Judge Vincent P. Zurzolo sent out a similar letter in 2009. The letter noted the dramatic rise in the number of low-income self-represented individuals in the Central District over the past three years, and that organizations assisting low-income people in bankruptcy were seeing hundreds of families on the brink of foreclosure or in other economic distress. The letter emphasized the ease of volunteering and the range of volunteer opportunities. Attached to the letter was a list of organizations and their contact information.
Training for Volunteer Attorneys
Public Counsel has organized several training programs and co-sponsored many of these programs with local bar associations throughout the Central District of California. The local bar associations have provided participants with continuing legal education credit. These sessions have been critical in educating volunteer attorneys and soliciting them to volunteer at the self-help desks, seminars, and reaffirmation clinics. More than 80 people have attended each program. The Court provided meeting rooms and a team of technical people to run sound and film the training.
In December 2011, Public Counsel and CDCBAA offered “Bankruptcy Basics” training, in which a panel of bankruptcy experts provided an introduction to chapter 7 consumer bankruptcy law. This three-hour training program is generally provided to attorneys once or twice each year, free of charge. Registration requires a two-hour pro bono commitment.
The Public Law Center, in conjunction with the Orange County Bar Association, also conducted training for attorneys on basic chapter 7 cases in May 2011. The volunteers who facilitated clinics in Santa Ana in 2011 underwent various training programs including the “Chapter 7 Basics” training. In Riverside, the experienced volunteers who facilitate the newly opened clinic did not complete any sort of training; however, some volunteers had attended Public Counsel’s training program.
The most prevalent training is the ongoing “on the job” training provided to volunteers by the organizations that run the self-help clinics and reaffirmation agreement clinics. New attorneys are required to shadow more experienced attorneys before they assist parties on their own.
Table of Contents (Download Report)
- What Do We Know About Self-Represented Parties in our Court?
- How Many Self-Represented Parties Are There?
- Measuring Success
- Language Barriers
- Bankruptcy Petition Preparers
- Income Levels
- Literacy Issues
- Self-Represented Creditors
- Court Resources and the Impact of Large Numbers of Self-Represented Litigants
- Debtor ID Program
- Current Programs and Services for the Self-Represented
- The Court’s Website
- Personal Assistance from Court Staff
- Easy to Understand Forms and Instructions
- Assistance from Volunteers and Nonprofit Organizations
- Honor Roll
- Recruitment and Training of Volunteers
- Funding Sources for Non-Court Services
- Current Projects “Under Construction”
- Pathfinder Electronic Filing Project
- Proof of Service
- Video Instruction
- Future Surveys
- Call Center/Internet Live Chat