This guide explains everything that you, a pro bono attorney, needs to know to help Upsolve debtors get a fresh start. We’ve designed every step of this process to make your experience as convenient and bite-sized as possible. We hope that you’ll make helping Upsolve debtors a recurring part of your pro bono practice. Thanks for joining us on this mission. If you have questions at anytime, please email email@example.com.
Upsolve screens debtors who are likely to file and creates a draft petition with documents. Your job is to confirm that filing makes sense, finalize the petition, and meet with the debtor to review the paperwork before filing. Then the engagement is terminated and your job is over.
There are lots of pro bono opportunities competing for your time. Why bankruptcy? Three reasons: it has big impact, it feels great, and it’s bite-sized and convenient.
The story starts when a debtor calls their local legal aid organization asking for bankruptcy help.
The Legal Aid Provider’s intake staff pulls up Upsolve’s screening questionnaire. The questionnaire, designed by leading bankruptcy scholar Henry Sommer, tells the intake staff whether or not a client would be a good fit for Upsolve. Although we still depend on you, the pro bono attorney, to ensure bankruptcy is a good fit for the debtor, debtors who pass the screener will end up filing about 95% of the time.
Once they pass the screener, the debtor will be referred to Upsolve’s website, where they’ll create an account and complete three pre-filing tasks: answering our Turbotax-style online questionnaire, taking the credit counseling course, and uploading relevant documents. Upsolve orders two years of the debtor’s tax returns from the IRS and a merged Experian/Transunion credit report. We ask the debtor to upload only the last 60 days of pay stubs, if employed. In general, getting documents from debtors is hard and the more documents we require, the more debtors drop out. So we intentionally limit our document requests to the minimum required by the Bankruptcy Code for a fresh start.
Once the debtor completes their pre-filing tasks, Upsolve populates all the required federal and local bankruptcy forms. We review the forms for accuracy. Then, the forms are accessible to the legal aid organization through our attorney portal. Each client case includes all the supporting documents (tax returns, pay stubs, etc.). The Legal Aid Coordinator will assign the case to you, the designated pro bono attorney, responsible for diagnosing the debtor and finalizing the case.
You will receive an email from the legal aid coordinator if you've been assigned a case. Once you receive the email, you should log into your account at attorney.upsolve.org to view it.
If you have not done so, you should create an account at attorney.upsolve.org and read the Attorney Portal Guide.
Now the fun begins. This is where you come in. Upon receiving the email from the Legal Aid Coordinator, you will complete the following three steps.
In the meeting, you’ll also explain to the the debtor the two final tasks they must complete after filing.First, they must take their debtor education course. It costs $9.95 and takes 2 hours on a smartphone or computer. Upon completion of the course, the course certificate is automatically filed with the bankruptcy court. Second, they must prepare for their 341 meeting. We have a mock-341 video in which the debtor practices answering the questions that the Chapter 7 Trustee will ask him. After watching this video, debtors will be ready to represent themselves pro se at their 341 meetings.
At the end of your meeting, you email the Legal Aid Provider you’re serving to close the Debtor’s case, letting them know you’ve met with the debtor. And you’re done! In most cases, the debtor will receive a letter of discharge in the mail just over two months after the 341 meeting. In the rare event that further assistance is needed, the Legal Aid Provider will decide whether or not to provide such assistance on its own. Either way, it will not involve you.
Your job in assisting Upsolve debtors entails the three items above. Now let’s discuss what is not your job. You are not responsible for:
By removing all of these unpleasant parts of traditional bankruptcy pro bono from your purview, we hope you’ll take significantly more cases and help significantly more folks in need get a fresh start. That’s what our work is about at the end of the day.
Thanks for reading! We’re excited to be joining you on this journey to make Chapter 7 bankruptcy more accessible to low-income Americans in your state. If you need any extra help, we’re always available by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Upsolve Team
Upsolve is a 501(c)(3) legal aid nonprofit that started in 2016. Our mission is to help low-income Americans in financial distress get a fresh start through Chapter 7 bankruptcy at no cost. We do this by combining the power of technology with pro bono attorneys. Spun out of Harvard Law School, our team includes lawyers, engineers, and judges. We have mission-driven funders that include the U.S. government, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and private charities.