Kevin R. Vibbert
Married, with two children, College Education at Austin College, Sherman Texas with bachelor degrees in Economics and Business Management with a focus on Finance. Attended law school at Gonzaga University School of Law in Spokane WA.
I started my professional career in Spokane then moved to South West Washington in May of 1997 and have provided services to Cowlitz , Lewis, and Clark County residents since.Why Bankruptcy as My Primary Focus?
You may wonder why I chose to concentrate on bankruptcy as my primary area of practice. It is simple - it is the only area of law that reminds me of why I went to law school - to help others. Every day I am fascinated by how the bankruptcy law resembles magic. When a bankruptcy is filed a "magical" umbrella, called the automatic stay, surrounds the debtor and their property. This umbrella is so powerful that it stops almost everyone in their tracks - even the IRS. No mortgage company, bill collector, or creditor of any type, including the Sheriff, can touch either the debtor or any property of the debtor. The automatic stay also protects the creditors from more aggressive creditors taking valuable assets from the Debtor. Many times those assets are worth far more than that aggressive creditor is owed, resulting in other creditors suffering unnecessarily. The automatic stay is invoked immediately upon the Bankruptcy Clerk date stamping a document called a bankruptcy petition.
Unlike most areas of law, bankruptcy dictates that the lawyer be a very good negotiator, well versed in many areas of law and sensitive to the differing needs of all those involved. It is the only area of law that does not normally pit one party against the other. There is rarely a battle of copy machines, nor does the number of associates assigned to the case directly affect the outcome. In fact, a lawyer's value is measured more in their creativity than their ability to write eloquent briefs. A good bankruptcy lawyer must be well-tuned into the actual cost of continuing litigation versus the benefit to the parties (both creditor and debtor). Therefore, the more the bankruptcy lawyer knows about the practical issues facing the parties, the better the conclusion for all and the lower the financial losses (attorney fees). To ice this cake, the judges in the Bankruptcy Court are for the most part dedicated to a fair and equitable result for the parties. They are not shy to shame and financially punish a large national lender for abusing an individual borrower. Nor, are the judges willing to award attorney fees to over-reaching attorneys and their clients (whether debtors or creditors). These judges demand practical, efficient and appropriate lawyering on all matters.
All of this may not sound like such a big deal to some of you with deep-rooted negative feelings about the bankruptcy law, but it illustrates an important point. When a bankruptcy petition is filed people's lives can change dramatically. The basic principal behind bankruptcy is to permit debtors an opportunity to get a fresh start and the creditors are to receive equal distribution of available assets. What a magical theory! Before filing bankruptcy someone's life is barely held together - they are terrified of answering their own phone; they are embarrassed at work by calls from collection companies and they may be in fear of losing their home or car. After a bankruptcy is filed many of my clients tell me that they can breathe easier and sleep through the night. They go to work with their heads held high; they are not afraid to answer their phones and they can actually open their mail without feeling sick.
Bankruptcy law has two main players -- debtors and creditors. I love debtor work because I can actually make a difference in someone's life. Nothing makes me feel better about my day than helping a client, who barely exists on a minimum wage, stop a creditor from garnishing their wages. I feel like I have contributed to my client's peace of mind when I contact a very aggressive collector to let them know that they are now permanently prohibited from ever contacting my client or trying to collect the debt. Years later it is a joy for me to hear from a client who has been able to refinance their home or buy a new car.
I once helped an elderly client who had signed up with one of those debt consolidation/reduction programs. Her only source of income was her monthly social security benefit of about $800.00. The program had set her up to make monthly payments of more than $300.00 to pay credit card debt. She had been making these payments for about two years and they were telling her that she needed to be in the program for another three years before there could be a benefit and her debt would be gone. For the better part of the two years her only source of meat was canned cat food, because that was all she could afford to buy. I helped her file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy without charging her for my services and she was debt free in about 90 days. I still hear from her on occasion and she is doing well. This is truly why I went to law school.
Bankruptcy laws are very powerful and they are all encompassing. Bankruptcy affects people and small companies in many ways. Other laws must bow to the bankruptcy laws. A divorce, a lawsuit and a foreclosure of property are all put on hold until, and only if, the bankruptcy is no longer in force, or the Bankruptcy Court gives those creditors permission to continue with their actions. A bankruptcy practitioner must know a little bit about everything - taxes, labor relations, and divorce are just a few.Why Is There Such a Stigma on Bankruptcy?
Possibly because it reflects a failure; a failure to protect the family; a failure to build a successful business or a failure to follow the steps of a parent who was not faced with similar challenges. Many assume that the debtor did not properly plan financially and/or they abused their use of credit cards. That, as a result of their poor judgment, they are choosing to file for bankruptcy protection. The reality for most is that they were able to pay their bills but life suddenly changed. Their employer closed its doors, their spouse abandoned them, their father needed money to pay for his cancer treatment or the market collapsed. These are the real situations that many of my clients have faced. I say to these naysayers that they need to walk a few miles in my clients' shoes. I tell them that they had better say their prayers, because there is no guarantee that tomorrow they will not be in the same position as the person they were wrinkling their nose at. We are all only a blink away from being that person on the street corner with a cardboard sign.