Bankruptcy Attorney Gives Clients a Fresh Start
If you’re overwhelmed with debt, Marti Simon is the kind of person you’d want to ask for help. She’s gentle, nonjudgmental and generous with her time. She’s seen your problem before, and she knows how to help you untangle it. And for more than 20 years, she’s been helping ALRP clients in just this way, as a Panel attorney and more.
Marti heard about ALRP during a luncheon announcement and quietly made the cause her own. If you ask her, she’ll tell you that she gives a small amount of time—nothing really significant. But in the last two decades she has handled many dozens of client cases, conducted numerous mandatory continuing legal education (MCLE) classes for Panel attorneys, and become a major donor. She served on ALRP’s Board for four years, two of them as the Board Co-Chair, leaving ALRP in its strongest fiscal position ever. And she has also pressed her family into service: her husband Joe Marino has become a major contributor at annual ALRP galas, and her daughter Rachel has contributed her artwork for the auction. ALRP recognized her service with the Clint Hockenberry Leadership Award in 2010.
Like Alex Spiro and many civic-minded attorneys, Marti intended to be an immigration attorney and had to make some detours. Before law school, she taught ESL classes in community college, and did welfare and Social Security representation for Spanish speakers. But upon graduation, a position as an immigration attorney eluded her. She ended up working with a real estate firm, representing financial institutions in bankruptcy matters. “Somehow I could get a job that would pay me more,” she said, “but not one paying less.”
After several years working with law firms, she opened her own practice, and split her time evenly between representing creditors and debtors. Marti represents both small businesses and individual consumers. She finds that an unexpected benefit to representing individual debtors in bankruptcy is that her clients generally arrive stressed and upset about their financial situation, but leave happy after she’s laid out their options for them.
It’s not surprising that Marti found a home in bankruptcy work: she is working one-on-one to help clients in crisis, something which has always been her goal. Her bankruptcy clients come to her struggling with harassing creditor calls, worries about losing their homes, and confusion about their rights. Marti seeks to untangle their painful situations and present them with options that will let them rebuild their lives.
“Bankruptcy gives someone a fresh start,” she said. “Most of the clients I see for ALRP have high medical bills because of a lack of medical insurance or because their insurance doesn’t cover the full cost of their treatment. Some are too sick to maintain regular gainful employment; others might be doing a lot better with their health condition, but they’re burdened with a lot of old debt. Years ago, earlier in the epidemic, some people just didn’t want to die with their finances a wreck—they didn’t want to burden their survivors.”
Marti’s connection to ALRP continues to be sustained by her work with ALRP clients. “My ALRP clients are incredibly grateful and appreciative for the assistance I give them, and that they receive from the ALRP staff,” she said. “Other kinds of cases might be more financially rewarding, but I don’t always feel the same appreciation as from an ALRP client. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for ALRP. ALRP is an organization that’s necessary, that’s concerned with the rights of people in this community, and I believe in supporting it. I encourage other people to get involved. Many of us went into the law with a desire to contribute to society in some way. Nonprofit community organizations are a way to contribute. I know that others will find the ALRP experience rewarding and even as HIV/AIDS treatment has changed significantly over the years, many clients continue to need the help.”
Published January 2013