Bankr. W.D.N.C.: In re Banner- Unauthorized Practice of Law by National Bankruptcy Law Firm

Summary:

Ms. Banner filed a ‘bare bones’ Chapter 13 petition signed by her attorney, Joseph Kosko, who was a local partner in the law firm of Volks Anwalt, which solicited Banner as a client through direct mail. After missing numerous deadlines for filing the completed petition, ultimately the bankruptcy court held multiple contempt hearing regarding the representation by Kosko, Volks Anwalt, and its sole owner and managing partner, Jessica McClean. The bankruptcy was actually filed after the 10-day upset period for the sale of Banner’s home, such that the property was not protected nor the foreclosure halted.

The bankruptcy court found that Volks Anwalt’s business plan was developed by McClean and included a marketing plan that used direct mailings targeting individuals subject to foreclosure proceedings. Volks Anwalt operates in 43 states and, as of February 2016, had handled approximately 400 bankruptcy cases since its inception in May 2015. Its local partners, including Kosko, were found through internet recruiting and with minimal due diligence in researching that attorney. The local attorneys have have no authority, control, or input over the operations and management of the firm and, while they have some control over the management of their assigned cases, were not even expected to appear at all §341 Meeting of Creditors. Instead a “coverage attorney,” obtained through an attorney temp service, would appear at the majority.

In this specific case, Kosko and Volks Anwalt not only failed to file the bankruptcy in time to save Banner’s home, but also failed to redact her Social Security number in pleadings, did not provide Banner with any of the disclosures required by 11 U.S.C. §§ 342 and 527, nor even intended to appear at her §341 Meeting of Creditors.

The bankruptcy court found that Kosko violated the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct in terms of competence, diligence and his failure to communicate with Banner. Further, Kosko, McClean and Volks Anwalt had engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, as McClean is only licensed in Florida and New York.

Due to this misconduct, the court disbarred Kosko from practicing in the bankruptcy court for one year, McClean for five years, ordered all fees received be disgorged and both Kosko and Volks Anwalt to pay Banner $5,000.00.
For a copy of the opinion, please see:

Banner- Unauthorized Practice of Law by National Bankruptcy Law Firm

About

1. Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Washington University, 1993. 2. Juris Doctor degree from George Washington University, 1996. Admissions to Practice of Law: North Carolina Bar, 1996. Federal District Courts for the Eastern and Middle Districts of North Carolina. Specialty Certification: North Carolina State Bar: Certified as a Specialist in Consumer Bankruptcy. Areas of Practice: Practice limited to consumer and business debtor bankruptcy law, 1998 to present. Memberships: National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA). North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers (NCATL). North Carolina Bar Association, Bankruptcy Section. Lectures prepared and presented: North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers seminar on bankruptcy; Topic: Counseling the Consumer Debtor Prior to Court - C.Y.A. Forms to Help 'Gird They Loins'; 2001. Middle District Bankruptcy Seminar; Topic: Preparing Chapter 13 Plans; 2002. NACBA National Convention; Topic: Efficient Office Practices; 2003. NACBA National Convention; Topic: Chapter 7 vs. Chapter 13 Debates; 2004. Middle District Bankruptcy Seminar; Topic: Chapter 7 & 13 Hot Issues; 2004. Positions held: NACBA National Convention; Convention Chair; 2008. NACBA National Convention; Panel Moderator: Topic: Basic Bankruptcy Issues; 2008. NACBA National Convention; Panel Moderator; Topic: Chapter 13-Disposable Income and Other Issues; 2007. NACBA National Convention; Panel Moderator; Topic: Representing Members of the Military and Their Families; 2007. NACBA, Member of National Board of Directors, 2006 to present. NCATL, Chair of the Bankruptcy Section, 2003 to 2007. NACBA, Chair of the North Carolina Section, 2003 to 2007. NC Bar Association, Bankruptcy Section, Bankruptcy Council Member, 2004 to present.

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