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Quality Over Quantity: Diane Drain

May 20, 2013 01:26pm  

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Phoenix, AZ—Attorney Diane Drain's first job in the legal field didn't involve working as a lawyer at all.

“I've been involved in law since I was 19,” she told in a recent interview.  “I worked for the Public Defender's office, and from that point on, went to work as a receptionist, bookkeeper, office manager, paralegal, and legal secretary at a couple of different law firms.”

She soon found that she had a unique talent: being able to fill in for others, even with the most demanding bosses, whom she describes as “extremely brilliant attorneys who didn't have good social skills with staff.”

“I started a sole proprietorship as an independent contractor for law firms that needed someone to assist some of their more challenging partners,” Drain explains.  “I would staff for the partner whose secretary was on vacation, in transition—or they had driven out the last secretary.  I did that for several years.”

After that work, she says the transition to law school came naturally.  Law school was followed by work in real estate law, specializing in loan origination, and then she started working on bankruptcy cases—for creditors, not debtors.  Drain believes that her success in representing debtors in her own firm has come from her earlier experiences as both an attorney for creditors and her earlier work with law firms.

Today, according to Drain, the biggest challenges for new bankruptcy attorneys are coming from the market itself.  “Unfortunately, law schools are churning out new lawyers without regard to the demand for legal services,” she says.  “I think 85 percent or so of the students coming out of law school do not have jobs in the legal market.  So, they're going out into the market, and for the naive, bankruptcy appears to be really simple—just filling in a bunch of forms.”

The appearance of simplicity, though, wears off quickly: “What they don't understand is that bankruptcy directly impacts every other area of law.  You have to have a working knowledge of divorce law, probate, corporate, taxes —before you can ever put anyone into bankruptcy.  There is a serious burden to the legal system by having inexperienced attorneys filing bankruptcy.”

Attorneys who think they have what it takes to start a successful practice shouldn't confine themselves to a single area of law, says Drain.  “It's good to have two areas that fit together like pieces of a puzzle—for example, divorce and bankruptcy.  In my case, it's bankruptcy and real estate.”

Knowing when to say “no” is also one of the most critical skills for attorneys.  The attorney needs to determine the services they can competently provide.  “There is a balance to saying no to everything, or just turning down the things that stretch beyond your capabilities right now.  Don't over commit yourself.  Don’t be afraid to co-counsel with more experienced attorneys,” Drain advises.

It's also important to let the client's situation decide how you interact with them as a lawyer, according to Drain.  “Quality, not quantity—every client has the right to be treated with respect and courtesy.  Be their guide through the complicated bankruptcy process.  After all it is the client’s bankruptcy, not the attorneys’.”

Our Arizona based bankruptcy and foreclosure firm was founded in 1990 by Diane L. Drain, counselor and attorney at law. In addition to hundreds of consumer and small business debtors, her clients have also included commercial mortgage lenders, national banks and professionals such as lawyers and brokers.


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