I’d known that bankruptcy would require court, and thus a lawyer. I had a lawyer, but he was related to someone I used to work with. Trying to keep the number of people who knew my true financial situation to a minimum, I was loath to give him the case. Maybe he’d respect client confidentiality—but what if he didn’t?
So when the counselor at Graceworks was reciting local lawyers who handled bankruptcy cases, I was thrilled to hear Geri’s name. We had for a time attended the same church. She was a known quantity. She was a she—I have the slightest problem with male authority figures, always afraid I’m going to get yelled at.
We had a preliminary meeting, and she agreed to take my case, if the financial information made it clear we would win. “I don’t go to court for bankruptcy unless we’re going to win,” she told me. I was almost ready to turn in my list of creditors, reading over her checklist one more time, when panic hit. I picked up the phone and dialed her office. “Geri, I’m having a panic attack.”
I wasn’t really—I’ve had a couple of the genuine article, on Philadelphia subways, and this wasn’t anything like those. But my county of residence could be a problem—it wasn’t listed in her profile. If that were the case, maybe I’d have to find another lawyer. Unthinkable. Panic-inducing.
“Okay,” she responded calmly, but I thought I heard a wariness in her voice, as if she weren't sure what temperamental nut case she’d agreed to represent.
“I’m thinking I can’t file in X county, because I don’t live there.”
“You can’t file in X county,” she affirmed. “But we can file in Y municipality. I don’t usually go there, but I will make an exception in your case.”
“I don’t live in Y municipality. I live in Z county.”
“I know. It’s a regional court.”
I took a deep breath. “I have a friend who says, ‘There will be crowns in heaven for you,’ and that applies here.”
Geri laughed. “I don’t think so. I’m just making up for other things.”
We set a time later in the day to meet. I took her all the information I had gathered, then listened as she tried to explain the law about cars to me. I could keep the car only if its value didn’t exceed a certain amount; Geri said it this was going to be okay. (It was.) I could see the law’s intent—no, you can’t declare bankruptcy while driving a new Jag. But it still seemed a bit mean-spirited, as if I were being punished for having cancer—which in a way I was.