Free and Reduced Rate Bankruptcy Assistance
The Northern District of Florida Bankruptcy Bar Association, Inc.
Stop and P.L.A.N.
(Pause for Legal Assistance Now)
■ For Persons Needing Bankruptcy Assistance (click to expand)
Thinking about filing bankruptcy? Stop and P.L.A.N. to Succeed.
Bankruptcy laws, written by Congress, have changed dramatically over the years. Filing and completing bankruptcy cases has become increasingly complex. Filing bankruptcy without an attorney is your right. But a new program, P.L.A.N. (Pause for Legal Assistance Now), from the NDFLBBA, can help you through the bankruptcy process.
What is the P.L.A.N. (Pause for Legal Assistance Now) Program?
The P.L.A.N. (Pause for Legal Assistance Now) Program provides free administrative and general legal assistance to individuals who are considering filing bankruptcy.
How does P.L.A.N. work?
It’s as simple as that! The attorneys who answer this hotline are volunteering their time; there are no fees associated with their assistance. An attorney will answer administrative questions about bankruptcy and provide general guidance to help you understand bankruptcy and the bankruptcy process. The attorneys can also address common problems facing unrepresented debtors, including issues that arise when bankruptcy filings are incomplete.
Speaking to an attorney through the P.L.A.N. hotline does not create an attorney-client relationship.
What if I need answers to specific legal questions about my case?
You may be eligible for the NDFLBBA’S PRO BONO INITIATIVE.
“Pro bono” comes from the Latin term, “pro bono publico,” meaning “for the public good,” and reflects the offering of free legal services by voluntary attorneys to help members of the public. The Pro Bono Initiative is a program sponsored by the NDFLBBA to assist persons who require more detailed legal advice about bankruptcy but are not sure they can afford an attorney. Eligible individuals may receive legal representation for free or at a reduced rate.
How does the Pro Bono Initiative work for persons considering filing bankruptcy?Call 866-944-6421 to speak to an attorney about obtaining free or reduced rate legal representation.
It’s as simple as that! In response to your call, an attorney will help guide you to where you may receive free or reduced legal services related to bankruptcy.
General information about how bankruptcy cases move through the courts is also available on the Court’s website. Bankruptcy Help videos are available in English, Spanish and Creole.
If you have any questions about the NDFLBBA’s Pro Bono Initiative, including the P.L.A.N. and RAP programs, call the Pro Bono Initiative hotline at 866-944-6421, or reach out to any NDFLBBA Board member (https://www.ndflbba.com/).
■ For Attorneys Wishing to Help (click to expand)
Rule 4-6.1 of the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar sets forth pro bono service guidelines for attorneys admitted to practice in the state of Florida. The goal of the NDFLBBA is to facilitate individual efforts to meet these guidelines.
I’m an attorney. How can I participate in the P.L.A.N. Program?
Attorneys willing to volunteer for P.L.A.N. may register by calling the P.L.A.N. hotline:
I’m an attorney. How can I volunteer my time by offering pro bono services?
Any attorney admitted to practice in the Northern District of Florida may register as a volunteer for the Pro Bono Initiative by calling 866-944-6421.
What does the Pro Bono Initiative require from attorneys?
When a qualifying party in need of free or reduced rate representation is identified and referred by the Court, the NDFLBBA, or another entity or outlet, Pro Bono Initiative staff will attempt to match the prospective client with a volunteer attorney.
What is RAP (the Reaffirmation Assistance Program)? What does RAP require from volunteer attorneys?
Many self-represented debtors sign and file reaffirmation agreements. Most have no idea what it really means to reaffirm a debt, much less what it means to “redeem” collateral – they need help! The NDFLBBA, working with the Court, has establish the RAP (Reaffirmation Assistance Program). RAP is designed to permit attorneys to offer pro bono services assisting debtors with issues pertaining to reaffirmation and redemption. Here’s how RAP works:
- The Court will schedule reaffirmation hearings to be held on a separate docket; normally once per month.
- During each reaffirmation hearing docket, an attorney RAP volunteer will listen to the reaffirmation hearings via ZOOM. If it appears a debtor needs assistance, the Court will continue that debtor’s reaffirmation hearing to the next available docket. The listening volunteer attorney will contact the debtor to offer and provide appropriate reaffirmation-based assistance.1
- Unless otherwise agreed between the volunteer RAP attorney and the debtor, the volunteer attorney providing a debtor with reaffirmation-related assistance through the RAP program will not be construed by the Court to be the debtor’s attorney for purposes of 11 U.S.C. § 524(c)(3).
- The volunteer RAP attorney will be entitled to credit toward the Florida Bar’s pro bono requirement.
- The NDFLBBA is investigating a cooperative relationship with a legal aid society through which volunteer attorneys providing pro bono assistance and legal services through P.L.A.N. and RAP would receive the additional benefit of malpractice coverage.2
To volunteer for RAP (Reaffirmation Assistance Program), call 866-944-6421.
Any attorney who accepts representation through the Pro Bono Initiative, including the P.L.A.N. and RAP programs, and who appears in court on a matter related to the representation, can expect the Court to use its best efforts to call the matter as early in the calendar as possible to minimize the volunteer attorney’s wait time.
Why should I volunteer for NDFLBBA’s Pro Bono Initiative, including P.L.A.N. and RAP?
Volunteering for the NDFLBBA’s Pro Bono Initiative, including P.L.A.N. and RAP will:
- Help you help someone who cannot help themselves
- Give you a wonderful sense of accomplishment
- Assist the Court by enabling the Court to spend less time on cases involving self-represented parties
- Enable you to accrue Pro Bono hours for Florida Bat reporting
- Help you get to know other bankruptcy practitioners and trustees in the Northern District of Florida
- MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD
The success of NDFLBBA’s Pro Bono Initiative, including P.L.A.N. and RAP, depends on bar participation.
These programs, designed to provide valuable assistance and legal services to the less fortunate, will only succeed if members of the bar actively participate. The Court and the NDFLBBA Board encourage all bar members to register for these programs.
Information about the NDFLBBA’s Pro Bono Initiative, including the P.L.A.N. and RAP programs, will be posted on the NDFLBBA website, will be shared with other bankruptcy courts and bar associations, and will be provided to other appropriate outlets.
Attorneys who participate in the programs will be recognized on the NDFLBBA website, in the Court’s newsletter, through other outlets, and at the NDFLBBA’s annual seminar.
1 See, the Court’s Zoom Video, Telephonic, and Hybrid Hearings webpage to learn how to register for a morning or afternoon Zoom session.
2 All legal aid programs that offer pro bono cases cover volunteer lawyers under their malpractice insurance. Please check with the legal aid organization hosting your case for terms and limits. Cases posted by courts will not offer malpractice insurance.” https://thefloridabarfoundation.org/florida-pro-bono-matters-faq/ (last visited September 6, 2022).