Consumer Bankruptcy Journal Winter 2016 - Page 35

THE GAP BETWEEN ATTORNEYS AND JUDGES services for which the attorney billed the minimum increment of one tenth of an hour were “momentary” or “administrative.” If the court really contends that isn’t necessary to good representation, I’m open to some continuing education on how it’s to be done. skinny, says the old saw. Opting out of the no look fees and waiting even longer for payment makes eating less easy.) No look fees require a crystal ball Those deprecated services included review of claims filed, communication received, or “other administrative tasks.”  My view is different. Much of this problem lies in the seductive qualities of the no-look fee. None of those listed and discounted services are ones that can be delegated to staff.  How is an attorney to manage the case and know when issues arise if she doesn’t review claims filed, read the emails received, or examine a notice of mortgage payment change?   It’s not clear if the court contends that those tasks don’t have to be done, can be delegated to others, or are simply noncompensable. The no look fee adopted in the Northern District of California fixes a maximum fee for Chapter 13 representation that an attorney may charge without making a formal written application to the court for review and approval of fees. The  Rights and Responsibilities  agreement provides that an attorney may apply for additional fees if the amount of the “no look” fee doesn’t fairly compensate the attorney for the services rendered. The “no look” fee appeals to the court, because the bench is relieved of reviewing routine applications for compensation;  it appeals to attorneys because it is quick, simple, and relieves the debtor of paying for the cost of preparing a fee application.  Generally, the lower the transactions costs to the debtor, the more likely the debtor is to successfully complete the plan. The difficulty arises when the case takes more time and effort than the no look fee covers. The Rights and Responsibilities require that any application for additional fees establish” that said fees and costs are merited and have not been compensated within the amounts previously ordered.” An attorney can opt out of the no-look fee regime and seek approval of fees in the same manner as in Chapter 11 cases (where the debtor’s budget is invariably much larger than that of an individual debtor).   Not only does opting out add to the fees the debtor must pay, but it pretty much assures that no compensation is paid to debtor’s counsel between the filing of the case and months after the plan is confirmed.   (One can never be too The fundamental, but fallacious, premise of the no look fee is that the attorney can accurately assess the qualities of the client and the course of the case at the first meeting with the client.  If the attorney is to opt out of the no look fees, and seek compensation through the traditional fee application, that choice must be made at the outset of the representation. I’m reminded of the apocryphal response of Michelangelo to the question of how he turns a slab of stone into his masterpiece of David: It is easy. You just chip away the stone that doesn’t look like David. Yeah. Applied to lawyering, some part of the representation of debtors involves identifying the facts that don’t drive the case.   Reviewing the notice of mortgage payment change, so you know whether the servicer is accurate or overreaching.   Reading the correspondence that comes in so you know how others see the situation.   Analyzing a claim is see if it’s sufficiently supported, within the statute of limitations, and consistent with the debtor’s representations. You look at the paper, and decide whether it’s part of your case, or can be chipped away like excess stone. How the “no look” fee works National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy ѽɹ̀$(($(($()]ѕȀ()Qͥ啅́ѡ̰$e)ѕݡ́ݥɕͥٔ)ѕɅѥٕٔȁѡ)ٔ啅́ ѕȀ̸ $e)ѕݡѡȁѡɔݥѥ́Ѽ)ɵѥѕѥ́)ɍյх̰ȁٕͅɥ)Ѽ !܁$ѕɽ)܁Սqɑ䁍չ͕tݥ)ɕեɕ)Aɥ嵕еɕ)ݽɱ)QՑɥѥЁѡ͔ѡ)ɥɕѡ́ЁɅ͕)Օ́Ёɕ͕ѕѡѥ)ȁ́ȁЁѡɥѡ)ѥ =݅́ͥɥ)хѕ́ѼѡЁ́́)չѥݥѠѡЁ)ѡ͕٥́ɕɕѡЁɕe)ѕ٥ͥѼѡи)QÍIͥѥ)хѕЁх́ɽ٥ͥѡ)͕ЁЁɑȰѽɹϊd)ɔѼѡɽ՝ѡ M)͕ɥѼѡЁ)䁄́չѥͥ)ѡЁ́ЁѼѡхѕи)'eٔɥѡ̰ѕЁѼɽ٥)́ݥѠ٥ͥ䁥Ѽѡхє) =9MU5H 9-IUAQ d)=UI90((((0