Wednesday, June 3, 2009

NACBA Convention - The Blues in Chicago

I just got back from the NACBA Convention in Chicago. There were about 1,400 bankruptcy attorneys present. The event sold out very quickly and the organizers had to set up an overflow room.

These are a few of my observations about the convention.

1. More attorneys are going into or returning to the bankruptcy field as other fields of law are drying up. Many business attorneys have lost clients and jobs due to cutbacks and think "Hmm. There are a lot of bankruptcies - I can do that." However, these days, bankruptcy is financial brain surgery - not a field for amateurs.

2. There were more exhibitors. A lot of people want to sell us things because they think we have money. Everybody wants to take on a part of our practice - from web site design to site optimization, running credit reports, doing credit briefings, assisting us in document preparation through software or virtual assistants, providing court notices to us and certificates of service for items we send to creditors. There was even a vendor who would prepare my fee applications for me. If I hired them all, I would barely have to lift a finger, but all my fees would end up going to them. I'd make myself obsolete.

3. Many of the speakers were as confused as I was over certain complex issues. Still, it's nice to know that even the experts don't know all the answers. That's why I'm shocked when I see ads claiming that filing bankruptcy is easy or offering a lowball price. A lot of these issues still have to work their way through the court system.

4. Chicago pizza just isn't the same as New York pizza. Same for the hot dogs. Salad does not belong on top of a hot dog. But Chicago Thai food is excellent - easily on a par with New York and New Jersey, and the prices are significantly cheaper. Star of Siam was wonderful.

5. Hotel catered lunches never quite get the chicken right. Last year, in our Hollywood Convention, we were catered by Wolfgang Puck. My mother-in-law cooks better. Hollywood really is all about hype. Chicago catering was better, but still not exceptional.

6. Television keeps saying this will turn around next year. Television lies. Most of my colleagues and one of my friends who has a doctorate in economics are predicting a depression. I trust my friends more than I trust TV.

7. President Obama really betrayed us on the mortgage modification bill. During the election, he was all for it but his support in the Senate was so lukewarm, he almost guaranteed its failure. I realize he wants to do it his own way, with voluntary programs. He seems not to get it - banks are greedy and never volunteer. It's all cosmetics - lipstick on a pig. I believe we will revisit the legislation again later on, after his HAMP program fails.

8. Letting servicers modify mortgages may not even work, since they often don't have the authority in their pooling and service agreements to modify them. They are doing it anyway, which may create a really unholy mess on top of the mess we are already in.

I never really get to see much of a town during conventions because of the heavy load of seminars. I can't stay away too long because I can't ignore my client base. I always come back having learned something new, but I can't say I learned that much more about Chicago. However, I can tell you a lot about Marriott hotels. Such is my life.