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Legal Assistant: Clare Forester ’19 at Scholl Ashodian Regional Bankruptcy Center

The mission here at Scholl Ashodian Regional Bankruptcy Center , shown above, is to help guide those facing bankruptcy, and/or foreclosure through the legal process, which can be complicated and lengthy even at the best of times. The ultimate goal in doing this is to help people to save their houses from being taken away and to save their finances from irreparable ruin, if possible. This mission was apparent to me from day one as I witnessed the personalized care each client received from the staff here as well as the professional but caring attitude with which all clients were treated. I have tried to the best of my ability to do the same when I get the opportunity to work directly with clients on their cases.

My role in this organization is officially as a legal assistant. Half of my time at Scholl Ashodian is spent sitting at the front desk, speaking with clients who come in. On these days, I am the first point of contact with our clients. I take documents relevant to their case, and I can, to an extent, discuss their upcoming hearings with them. The other half of my time is spent doing research and case work. Most recently, I was able to work with a client who was accused of having a higher income than they reported. My job was to look over their financial documents and prove that the values shown there matched their reported income. This may sound rather dry but in the moment it was like putting together the pieces of a puzzle to solve a mystery; in the end the mortgage company accusing our client settled, so I consider that a win. Below is a photo of the courthouse where most of our client’s hearings take place.

bankruptcy-court

As well as helping clients through the foreclosure process, my boss and I are helping to plan a conference to educate the public on the future of bankruptcy and foreclosure following the end of the Home Affordable Modification Program, a government program which helped those facing foreclosures to obtain loan modifications that would help them keep their homes. Now that this program is over, we are trying to gauge what other plans are in place to help those facing foreclosure. The panel of speakers includes directors of bankruptcy counseling programs and loan modification agents at various banks. The community of lawyers, mortgage servicers, counselors and civilians at large will learn together what plans are already in place so that they can work together to create the future of bankruptcy assistance. I believe that this will have a positive impact in the community at large because it is important for those facing foreclosure to be aware of the options available to them.

I hope to use to my education to create a career for myself at the intersection of literature and political economy, perhaps writing scholarly articles or opinion pieces, so the intersection of politics and economics play out in front of me in a legal setting is quite beneficial to me.  In this co-op, I am learning a lot about the legal process of bankruptcy, which informs my degree in political economy. I am learning directly about how much class and race play a role in who suffers from bankruptcy and foreclosure. For example, we believe one of our clients has experienced discrimination at the hands of his lender as he was given higher rates than other clients of a similar credit history. This is a real life application of the intersectional economics I have been learning in my political economy class, which stresses a look at how social status affects economic status. Further, one of the most important abilities in law is to be able to write persuasively. Being able to do this can convince a judge to reinstate your case or a trustee to modify your client’s bankruptcy payments. I am able to read some of the things my boss writes to help his clients which in turns helps me to identify how I can write more persuasively. Overall, I am gaining a lot of skills and life experiences that are adding to my education in the class room.

Here’s where I’m located, outside of Philadephia on the east coast:

map

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Clare Forester is a student at Antioch College towards a bachelors degree in literature. She currently working at Scholl Ashodian Regional Bankruptcy Center to help people facing bankruptcy or foreclosure to take advantage of the legal options available to them.

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