The problem came to the attention of Lauren Rousseau, then-associate dean and a law professor at Cooley's Auburn Hills campus, through two Cooley students, Laura Lambert and Justin Valencia.
, the students, Dobbins and Leslie Berg, an adjunct professor teaching bankruptcy at Cooley
, with the support of the Bankruptcy Committee of the Federal Bar Association
, where Berg was co-chair, created a presentation designed to educate consumer debtors, especially the pro se group, about the basics of the bankruptcy process.
, with assistance from people at each campus, organizes training sessions each term for interested students.
"The program provides students with a wonderful opportunity to hone their presentation skills, learn about the bankruptcy process, and network with bankruptcy professionals," Rousseau
At about the same time, Rousseau became aware of the ABC program and joined its board of directors, which includes Dobbins and Judge Marci McIvor of the Bankruptcy Court.
None expressed a desire to participate, but when Rousseau joined the board, she jumped at the chance to involve Cooley.
"I was very interested in working with ABC
to develop some type of program that would enhance the services ABC
provides to low-income debtors while also providing Cooley law students with experience working with bankruptcy cases and clients," Rousseau
Working with the board and Cooley
administration, the ABC/Cooley Bankruptcy Pro Bono Project was launched last September.
It incorporates a panel of volunteer attorneys, each of whom is paired with a Cooley student to work on a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case.
Attorneys each get a "token" amount of $200 training stipend, Rousseau said, and supervise the student throughout the case, from beginning to end.
refers the cases to the pairing after a review, and keeps tabs on it.
She said the student performs the bulk of the work in preparing the case after meeting with the attorney and the client, and may even represent the client before the bankruptcy trustee while the attorney stands by to assist them.
Fifteen students each from the Auburn Hills and Ann Arbor campuses are selected, but each term, a new batch will be chosen among the many students who are interested in the program, Rousseau
And so far, it's been a hit, for the students and attorneys as well, who have provided "consistently positive feedback."
The program may be expanded to include more students and more attorneys in the future, Rousseau
In addition, ABC has become a partner in the "Bankruptcy Basics" seminars as well, she said.
Anything that helps debtors get a handle on their financial plight and provides attorneys a way to offer pro bono help is a worthwhile thing, Rousseau
In different ways, each of these programs does just that.
"I tremendously appreciate the efforts of our volunteer attorneys," Rousseau