DAYL’s “Coffee with the Court” program returned to the Earl Cabell Federal Building and Courthouse on August 31, 2018, to meet with Bankruptcy Judge Harlin D. “Cooter” Hale. The crowd of nearly twenty beat Labor Day weekend traffic to enjoy practical tips and insights about practicing in bankruptcy court.
Judge Hale’s first suggestion was to get involved in the local bankruptcy bar. He emphasized that collection of attorneys is tight-knit, helpful, and welcoming. In particular, he noted that most would be willing to offer general guidance to folks practicing in the Texas bankruptcy courts.
Judge Hale’s second suggestion was “know your judge.” He noted that judges have preferences and may be more or less inclined to grant certain types of relief. Investigating those inclinations can help the young lawyer decide whether to seek or oppose certain relief. He recommended two main approaches to learning about the judges – observe by tracking a judge’s docket and watching a hearing on similar issues and ask around (see suggestion one).
Judge Hale’s third point was more of a warning: bankruptcy matters move fast. He noted that statutory deadlines require aggressive schedules, tight turnarounds, and quick resolution of issues. Again, he emphasized that establishing good relationships with fellow bankruptcy bar members benefits the young attorney, who can leverage those relationships to maximize professional courtesies and to decide how best to serve her client.
Judge Hale closed by noting two other aspects that make practicing in bankruptcy court different in certain respects to being in federal court on other matters. He first remarked that bankruptcy matters can involve exponentially more interested parties than a typical civil or criminal matter, which can frequently add layers of complications. Judge Hale also noted that the bankruptcy courts pride themselves on being “user friendly.” While the courts will not offer legal advice, the courts recognize that the mechanics surrounding the process may be unfamiliar to many users. As they are here to serve the public, the courts want to make that experience as positive and smooth as possible.
Before we disbanded, Judge Hale treated the group to a tour of his chambers, where the “legal sausage” is made.
DAYL appreciates Judge Hale for accommodating us, especially on the cusp of the holiday weekend.