1st Annual Scholarship Winner

We would like to congratulate Julia Krueger for winning the Mapes Law Offices Scholarship, a $1,000 award.

julia-kruegerJulia is attending Loyola University Chicago and is pursuing a major in chemistry and a minor in German.

In her essay “All Aloan: My Childhood Struggle With Debt”, Julia poignantly described her own childhood conflicts with debt, growing up in a family that was living paycheck to paycheck, and how that made her into the person she is today. She wisely stated that, while she wanted to go to college, she didn’t want to take on the monstrous loans that were being offered to her. She clearly saw that while accepting loans might be the easy way out right now, the future could be wrought with debt and fear over how to pay that debt off. She knowingly stated, “I’ve experienced the effects of overwhelming debt firsthand, and the last thing I want is to live through it again. I know that anything I can do to minimize my debt now will pay off in the future, and I’m committed to working hard and taking out the bare minimum of loans. Debt is a stressful, insidious thing, and I don’t want it to be the deciding factor in my future.” With a good head on her shoulders, applying for scholarships, and a little help from Mapes Law Offices, we know that Julia will successfully graduate college without financial headaches and stress.

At Mapes Law Offices, we value education highly, but we don’t want students to be buried under a mountain of debt when they finish. That just isn’t the way to start their lives after graduating from college. They should be following their passions, not looking for jobs just to make their monthly payments. That’s why we created the Mapes Law Offices Scholarship, to help in any way that we can. We hope that this award will help Julia, and others like her in future years, to take hold of their educations, without worrying about the financial aftermath.

Mapes Added to State Bar of Michigan Task Force

sbm-logo

I am honored and proud to announce to everyone that I have been asked to be a member of the State Bar of Michigan’s 21st Century Law Practice Task Force. This group will be focusing specifically on the licensing of foreign (non-US) attorneys and specialty non-JD legal service delivery providers, as well as any ethical issues that may need greater clarity or amendment in light of technology and market or case law developments, such as the unbundling of legal services, limited scope legal representation, and the advertising/solicitation of clients, especially via mobile and online technology.

I am thrilled at the chance to make a real and lasting difference in the regulation of the legal profession in our great State. If you have any thoughts on these issues you’d like to share with me, please feel free to email me. — Jeff Mapes

Why I wrote the letter…

I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who has had such positive things to say about the letter I posted to Dieseltec. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and it is heartening to know that businesses like the one at the center of this controversy are the exception and not the rule. That is not to say that all responses were positive. Many assumed that I must be homosexual because I support equality and treating everyone with dignity and respect. It is this idea that only gay people support gay rights that made me write the letter. You do not have to be gay to support equality, and until more heterosexual people stand up and let everyone know that treating people as less than equal is not acceptable, incidents like this will continue.

Among the emails I received yesterday was one from a former client who is homosexual. It is by far one of the most moving thank you notes I have ever received, and I have copied the pertinent parts below:

“Saw your open letter on facebook and really wanted to thank you for standing up.  Most people would not go on record like you have and it means so much.  My partner and I of 17 years get frustrated living in west michigan when I hear this kind of bigotry. I wanted to mention is during my bankruptcy, you and your office never made me feel like I had to hide who I was.”

No one should ever feel they have to hide who they are, life is difficult enough without having to pretend to be someone else. I truly believe that if everyone could just be themselves, we would probably have a great deal less depression, anger, and addiction in our society.

The post was certainly not intended to go viral, and I had no idea it would get this much exposure. It was written at 11:30pm at night when I couldn’t fall asleep and was reading the news in bed. For those who have just started following my blog because of this, I probably won’t be writing anything else on it but I do try to keep my posts fun and lighthearted so I hope you stick around for a while.

To Mr. Klawiter, should you read this, I hope you can change your views. I want to apologize for coming across as condescending, it was unbecoming of me. Like you I am a Christian, yet we have radically different views. I would just remind you what Jesus said  “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Christ exhorted us to love our neighbor (all our neighbors) as ourselves, and perhaps part of your views stems from not loving yourself. With that in mind I will leave you with a quote from my favorite author, David Foster Wallace, in the hopes that you can gain some wisdom from it and perhaps change the way you treat others.

“[I]if you can think of times in your life that you’ve treated people with extraordinary decency and love, and pure uninterested concern, just because they were valuable as human beings. The ability to do that with ourselves. To treat ourselves the way we would treat a really good, precious friend. Or a tiny child of ours that we absolutely loved more than life itself. I think it’s probably possible to achieve that. I think part of the job we’re here for is to learn how to do this.”

Have a Great Weekend Everyone. — Jeff

Dear Dieseltec…

This evening I was reading the news online and came across this story about Dieseltec, a local business that posted a message on their Facebook site proclaiming that homosexuals were not welcome and would be refused service. Our slogan is “Helping Good People through Bad Times” (for this let’s just say “Helping People through Bad Times” ) and boy oh boy Dieseltec, you are in for some bad times and will need my help. So here is my open letter to Dieseltec.

Dear Dieseltec:

     Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Jeffrey Mapes, and I specialize in bankruptcy law — helping individuals and corporations when things go wrong. I noticed your post on Facebook where you decided to alienate most of the general public by stating that you will refuse service to openly homosexual people. This is certainly an unorthodox business strategy, and perhaps it will work for you, but I get the feeling you will need a bankruptcy attorney pretty soon and I wanted to offer my services. Like you, I am white, male, Christian, a business owner, and a gun owner. Unlike you, I provide services to everyone regardless of their sexual orientation because it doesn’t matter to me — I hope this won’t be a deal breaker for you.

     If that upsets you, let me tell you a little bit more about our office to try and persuade you, The first thing you will notice is how friendly and compassionate the office staff is. Despite your inane, incoherent and just plain dumb comments, we know that everyone makes mistakes and we want to help you overcome them. They will also be more than willing to help you with some basic grammar that you seem to struggle with.

     If you still need more convincing, let me assure you that we will make certain that your bankruptcy petition is filed correctly and there are no errors. You stated in your post that you would incorrectly assemble a vehicle in order to prove a point. I want to let you know that despite the fact that I would love to prove a point to you about tolerance, I won’t compromise my standards of quality to do so. After all, I have to look in the mirror at the end of the day and if I didn’t do my best for everyone, I would have trouble sleeping. Perhaps you could give me pointers on how you sleep at night?

     Just a few other housekeeping items. While I certainly don’t encourage people to bring guns into my office, so long as you have the proper permit and handle it responsibly, you can bring your gun along. I would only ask that you refrain from menacingly stroking your weapon while you quietly sing David Allen Coe songs to yourself. I also think you have a deep and fundamental misunderstanding of the first amendment and how it works, but that is a long discussion and we should save that for when we meet in person.

     Well Dieseltec, I hope I’ve convinced you that Mapes Law Offices is the right place for you to file your bankruptcy. I would like to leave you with some words of inspiration from the dramatic film Billy Madison and I hope that you will take them to heart:

“What you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

Sincerely,

Jeffrey D. Mapes

Dogs Explaining the Bankruptcy Code: Part I: Preferences

Welcome to the first installment of Dogs Explaining the Bankruptcy Code. As a bankruptcy attorney I love the bankruptcy code. I have five copies of it, and even keep one at home and one in my car. I think it is important for anyone considering bankruptcy to know and understand the bankruptcy code, but I realize not everyone is as excited about it as I am. So to aid in educating you about the bankruptcy code, and not put you to sleep, I have enlisted the help of some friends to make it more interesting. Without further ado, I present Dogs Explaining the Bankruptcy Code Part I: Preferences.

Preferences are a big issue for anyone considering bankruptcy. The last thing anyone wants to have happen is to get their loved ones dragged into their financial issues, and with the right attorney they can be avoided. Below is a common scene played out in my office that I hope will shed some light on the topic of what a prefrence is, what it means, and how to avoid them:

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

Mapes Law Offices is Proud to Announce the opening of a Holland location!

Holland

 

I am very proud to announce that Mapes Law Offices is opening a fourth location in Holland Michigan! Beginning April 1, we will be accepting new appointments to meet with potential clients in our Holland location located at 311 S. River, directly across form the public library in the Greenridge Realty building.

For quite some time now I have wanted to open a location in Holland because quite frankly, I think the citizens deserve a higher quality of Bankruptcy Attorney than is currently available to them. We are now the only Board Certified Consumer Bankruptcy Office in Holland and are looking forward to providing you with the experience and skill that a legal specialist can bring.

If you or someone you know on the lakeshore is having financial hardships, contact us today at (616) 719-3847 so you can meet with the best Bankruptcy Attorneys that Holland has to offer.

Bill Collectors want to steal your Grandma…

ben_stiller_grandma

 

 

I have had a great deal of experience with bill collectors in my career as a bankruptcy attorney. I have had them threaten to kill a client’s dog, repossess a baby for an unpaid medical bill, and have people arrested. Those are all outrageous statements, but for the most part they are idle threats and just said for shock value. Bill collectors cannot throw you in jail, cannot beat you up, cannot just take your things without going to court and suing you first.

When a friend of mine posted a link to this New York Times story about nursing homes methods to collect on bills, I was shocked. Apparently it is quite common in the world of nursing homes for them to seek legal guardianship over a patient and all of their money when they cannot pay their bills. This would then give them the authority to pay themselves out of the patient’s assets, sell homes, liquidate retirement accounts etc… in order to recoup their money.

I really really hope that this isn’t the case for anyone out there, but if it is, a bankruptcy could help to stop the process. Pass this story along to anyone you know who may need help.

Free Income Tax Return Preparation!

Taxes-Due

Tax time is once again upon us, which means that once again you have to struggle through navigating the Tax Code to figure out how to fill out your tax return, or pay someone an exorbitant amount of money to do it for you. Well, this tax year, Mapes Law Offices is here to help you.

Not only am I an attorney, but I am also a licensed tax preparer with the IRS. Tax time is one of the busiest times for bankruptcy attorneys because people who could not afford to file earlier in the year now have their tax refunds. The problem is coming up with the money to file your return so that you can file bankruptcy. So we now have a special offer for our potential clients. If you sign up with our office to file your bankruptcy petition, we will professionally prepare your personal income tax returns absolutely free of charge!

Why go to H&R Block and pay them $300 just tile your return, and then pay bankruptcy attorney fees? Sign up with us and not only will you save money, but you will have a licensed attorney preparing your tax returns instead of a fast food worker who prepares taxes for three months of the year. This offer is for a limited time only, so contact us today and set up an appointment so that we can sit down, discuss your finances, and offer you the best financial advice you can get.  — Jeff Mapes

Despite Court Ruling, We will worry about your chapter 13 case so you don’t have to.

Yesterday the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Michigan in Grand Rapids issued a ruling which struck a blow to bankruptcy attorneys who regularly monitor and maintain their Chapter 13 cases. While I strongly disagree with the Court’s ruling, I will respect and abide by the decision. For those interested, you can read the decision here: http://www.miwb.uscourts.gov/sites/miwb/files/opinions/098016816035.pdf

At Mapes Law Offices one of the things that makes us different than other bankruptcy attorneys in Grand Rapids, Lansing, and Kalamazoo is that we regularly monitor the status of our chapter 13 bankruptcy cases to make sure that they are progressing properly and everything is going smoothly. We make sure that payments are properly made, that the trustee is properly administering payments, and that creditors are not trying to pull a fast one and get paid when they should not. Quite a bit happens on a monthly basis, that in itself is a rather small event, but could become a large problem if not caught early.

Yesterday the Court ruled that we cannot charge to monitor cases on a regular basis unless there are problems in the case that warrant it. I believe that monitoring in all cases is necessary to ensure that the cases do not become problem cases. The monthly charge for monitoring the cases would be roughly $35 per month to make sure things go smoothly. This does not mean that clients would have to pay extra, one of the great things about chapter 13 cases is that your attorney fees can come out of what the unsecured creditors would otherwise get. Basically, if your creditors were getting ten cents on the dollar, and your bankruptcy attorney submitted a petition to be paid more, your creditors would get eight cents on the dollar, but you would not have to pay any more than you were beforehand.

As a bankruptcy attorney, I believe it is my duty to make sure my client doesn’t need to worry about their case. When you choose our office to be your bankruptcy attorney I want your problems to become our problems, so you can stop worrying about money and get back to living your life. So despite the Court’s ruling, we will continue to monitor your cases though we will not be paid for it. Ultimately, your success is the most important thing, and as your bankruptcy attorney we will do everything in our power to make sure that you get a fresh start, that you can stop worrying about creditors, and that you can get your life back on track.

I didn’t choose to become a bankruptcy attorney for the money, I chose to become a bankruptcy attorney because I wanted to help the people in Grand Rapids where I grew up, I wanted to help the families I met in Kalamazoo when I was in college, and pay back the people in Lansing that helped me make my way through law school. You deserve the absolute best representation from your bankruptcy attorney, and that is exactly what you will get from our office, even if we don’t get paid for it.

— Jeffrey D. Mapes

Introducing George J. George, the Attorney so nice they had to name him twice.

 

images

I am pleased to announce the hiring of a new associate attorney at Mapes Law Offices. Attorney George J. George has begun working for us and I am certain that you he will be a wonderful asset to our team. In order to introduce George I wanted to write a blog post telling you all a little bit about him. So, naturally I did what any responsible attorney does — I delegated that task to someone else. I had George write a brief introduction of himself and have added it below. While it is certainly informative, it lacks panache, so I have taken the liberty of spicing it up a bit. I hope you all read it and stop by to meet George.

Mapes Law Offices is pleased to welcome its new face meltingly awesome staff attorney, George J. George, or for our Spanish speaking clients Jorge J. Jorge.  George graduated from Michigan State University College of Law in June 2012 and was admitted to practice in December 2012.  He has spent the last two years working as a bankruptcy specialist and highly trained asassin in Detroit, where he successfully represented more than one thousand debtors in bankruptcy court and single handedly rid the city of drug dealers — a feat not even RoboCop could accomplish.  His experience spans from simple, straightforward cases to the largest and most complex personal Chapter 7 cases.  Much of his two years in practice has been spent interacting directly with his clients and ensuring that they understand what is happening in their cases.

George also has experience representing clients in bankruptcy-related matters such as creditor abuses, dischargeability actions, and settlement negotiations.  In cases where a creditor has violated the Automatic Stay in Bankruptcy, George aggressively pursued sanctions against the offending creditor, and has put money back in the pockets of his clients for their trouble. has gone to their home, pummeled them into submission, kicked them out of their house, burned their house to the ground, waited until the flaming wreckage cooled, sowed salt in the ground, and made them thank him for it.

In his free time, George rescues orphans, prosecutes war criminals, is a master chef, and is an avid reader. Yes, his legal name is George J. George, no his parents did not hate him, when you’re as awesome as George, one first name just isn’t enough.

George’s work in Detroit put him in constant contact with city residents most in need of bankruptcy relief.  In each case, George treated his clients with compassion, understanding and patience.  He brings the same enthusiasm kindness, and general awesomeness with him as he looks forward to new challenges at Mapes Law Office.