The MyShingle profiles are an experimental feature here at MyShingle – to offer some insight into the careers of practicing solo and small firm attorneys, with questions on how they got their start to what gets them going in the morning. My thanks to Jay Fleischman and Walter James (next post) for serving as guinea pigs for this feature.So without further, ado, meet Jay S. Fleischman – New York Bankruptcy Lawyer.
Jay S. Fleischman is a New York bankruptcy and consumer protection and a lawyer who helps other lawyers market, manage and grow their practices. He is the New York co-chair of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, a co-founder and the current President of the Bankruptcy Law Network, and a member of the National Association of Consumer Advocates. He lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, son and dog.”
1. What kind of law do you practice?
I am a consumer protection lawyer concentrating in consumer bankruptcy, debt collection abuse, and credit reporting errors. I represent consumers only.
I began my firm on December 19, 2005 after giving notice one day before raises and bonuses were announced at my former employer. My timing was deliberate, and based on my fear of: (a) if my raise and bonus were too good then I’d find it more difficult to leave; and (b) if my raise and bonus were below my expectations then I might suffer a crisis of confidence.
My firm has been as large as 12 people, and is now comprised solely of me. I employ a large network of virtual assistants and of-counsel attorneys who all come together to work on matters as needed. This allows me to expand and contract as needed without worrying about bloated overhead that plagues so many lawyers.
My biggest challenge was in learning how to effectively market and manage my practice. Lawyers suffer from a knowledge gap when it comes to marketing and managing a successful business, so looking to other lawyers and law firms proved fruitless. I addressed the challenge by looking outside of the legal industry and modeling my practice on successful business principles.
5. Who was your first client – and how did he or she find you?
My first client was a woman who was experiencing bill problems. She was a single mom with a young daughter, no insurance, and extreme debt due to her daughter’s chronic illness. She found me from a print ad in a local newspaper, and called during the worst snowstorm New York City had experienced in years (Monday, January 8, 1996 was the day I was in the office, and the day everyone else was home or playing out in the 17″ of snow we got that day). I was convinced someone would call, and she did – but she chose me because (shock) I was the only one at work to answer her questions.
I have been exceptionally lucky to have found an entire network of mentors in the world of consumer bankruptcy. Not only the attorney members of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, but also those involved with me in Bankruptcy Law Network. Without these incredibly helpful and intelligent lawyers I would never have attained my current level of knowledge.
I am blessed to be practicing in a field that allows me to see people at their worst and effect a real change in their lives. Money makes the world go around, and helping people get back on their financial feet is very rewarding.
8. Share an “aha” moment of your practice – a time when you realized that you were doing exactly what you were supposed to be doing.
My clients were a husband and wife with two young children. One spouse had experienced significant health problems that required the family to live on one income for a significant period of time. By the time they had recovered, the house was in foreclosure and the car was edging towards repossession. Using the consumer protection and bankruptcy laws I was able to help them keep their home and car, get out from under a mountain of debt, and resume their productive lives. They still live in that home – 9 years later – and are doing very well.
I’m an only child of working-class parents, neither of whom had the benefit of a college education. My father worked his tail off, putting in 14 hours days for years just to put food on the table. Giving me a better life was all my parents ever wanted, and I watched them teeter on the brink of economic collapse for years. I know what it’s like to be in debt, and to want more for the future. That knowledge informs my entire practice, and the way I work with clients.
Not everyone is a good fit for bankruptcy, and people are shocked whenI tell them that I turn away 60% of my clients. Some people need some guidance, others should investigate other options rather than going into bankruptcy. My job is to help people, not to force a square peg into a round hole.
Finally, I take a holistic approach to bankruptcy and consumer protection. The end of the case is the beginning of the relationship between the client and my office. My work includes helping to restorecredit, build credit scores, and provide long-term budgeting advice. A client is not successful until they are financial stable, and it’s my job to help attain that goal.
My practice began as solely consumer bankruptcy, and has evolved to encompass all facets of consumer protection law. In the future, that evolution will surely continue as the laws change to meet the growing needs of the consumer.
Lawyers suffer from a knowledge gap when it comes to marketing and managing a successful business, so looking to other lawyers and law firms proved fruitless. That’s why I have taken up the torch and created the Blizzard System of marketing, as well as my blog at www.BKPracticePro.com
Learning the law – any field of the law at all – is not rocket science. It requires careful and thoughtful study, a willingness to seek out and follow mentors, and to continue the process of learning through your entire life. Always remember who your client is, and what keeps them awake at night. Your service must address those fears and anxieties, and offer solutions that fit those needs. If you do that, you will succeed.
But if you insist on imposing your solutions in spite of the client’s true needs and wants then you will end up frustrated and a failure.