Bankruptcy attorney’s advice about Bankruptcy & Family Law during COVID-19

COVID has hit us all hard. Suffering from debt and trying to figure out what to do? Looking for answers about family law during the pandemic? Find out answers to these questions and more in this conversation with Philadelphia attorney Brad Sadek.

Joe: I’m ecstatic to bring on Brad Sadek – the founder of Sadek and Cooper. Brad, how are you, sir? 

Sadek: Good. Thank you very much for having me again.

J Doc: I look forward to spending the hour talking to you and hopefully giving a lot of guidance to the people of the Greater Philadelphia area. I think what you touched on in the opening is that people are not alone. Although they may feel like they’re alone – we have been and will continue to be here for the people of the Greater Philadelphia area when it comes to debt relief.

Thank you, and I hope this is really beneficial to our listener.

Sadek: So it will be and I’m excited about it. 

Joe: You have a program at the Philadelphia Union Community and Philly Labor. You’ve been working with our community and you’ve had a commitment to working people throughout your entire career. Which is why you’re so successful. People would be amazed at the difference (between) walking into an office and having no hope – and now having hope. There are great solutions to a lot of these situations. 

If you would, Brad, before we start the program, tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and your career and firm.

Sadek: Of course. Well, after law school – which looking back is further and further behind – after law school I guess I had to dream of a law student as far as career-wise. I was working for a very large firm here in Philadelphia doing more corporate bankruptcy and corporate-related cases, and I have the opportunity to make a transition to a smaller firm that helped people with consumer law – bankruptcy and debt consolidation.

And I really like that idea. I really like talking to people. I like seeing their success after helping them. After doing that for a couple of years I said, “You know what? I’m going to take a chance.”

I was 27 years old and wasn’t married. I didn’t have kids and it was kind of a Now or Never time, so I started what is now Sadek and Cooper is static Law Offices. I started it in a building that is now a hotel in Philadelphia. I moved offices several times but as we’ve grown I have done it with a commitment to people. We handle all sorts of cases from individual to corporations.

We have a family law side where we do uncontested divorces, divorces of a larger magnitude, as well all of the about around the Philadelphia area over the years. Our firm has grown from that one little office in Center City, Philadelphia – where I used my laptop from law school and the furniture from the tenant before me – to our now main office in Center City.

But we also have offices in New Jersey, Bucks County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County. And I think that’s really important to be local to the communities that we serve.

So our commitment is the same, although we’re a little bit bigger than how we started. That was actually 16 years ago and over the years we’ve grown.

We’ve, you know, brought on more and more Unions and You said earlier that I have a commitment to labor unions and the working person. I consider myself a working person. I think I am the same as my clients that walk in. Whether I’m talking to them over the phone or in person, I don’t judge people. I’m here to help people. That has always been my commitment to them.

Joe: You know, it’s interesting, because of having known you for a little while now and understanding how passionate you are when people come into your office. It is often one of the most difficult times in their life.

I mean, they may have it – and we’re going to talk about COVID-19 – and have constraints on families. I know that you’re passionate about what you do and about helping people. You get excited when you know that you can help somebody; who really is maybe lower than they’ve ever been in their entire life before. And that you’re going to make their life better by creating a plan for success for them. How does that make you feel? 

Sadek: Well, it makes me feel good and what I tell people all the time is life is about peaks and valleys. Most people go to a lawyer not when they’re off at the peak. People go to a lawyer – whether it’s financial, family matters, or a business dispute – people generally visit or call a lawyer’s office when they’re in the valley.

And that’s true of me and many other law firms. So, if I can help the people out of that valley and towards the peak, that’s why I do it. I try to have a relationship with my clients.

As I said, for the most part, we’ve seen consumers and individuals that is the bulk of our practice and when I see somebody who I’ve helped and six months later they’re buying a car with a favorable interest rate, or a year/ two years later they’re able to buy a house and realize their financial goals because of some sort of debt relief that took to get there. That is what it’s all about. I think that is a great success.

Nothing in law happens overnight. We are sometimes able to help people over three months or four months or five months and that’s truly quick. Sometimes it does take six months or nine months, but people have to be willing to make the investment in the process itself since it is not overnight, but at the same time, we can help a lot of people. I generally know pretty quickly if I can help them. Most of our consultations recently have been over the phone, Zoom, or something of the like. I generally spend the time learning about them and then the other half of the initial meeting telling them what path would be best for them.

And absolutely – I get excited. I can probably help 90% of the people that reach out to me with some sort of financial distress. I get really excited when I can help them. I also get equally as disappointed for that 1 out of 10 that maybe I can’t (help). And I go to great lengths to explain why I can’t and tell them what they can do. You know, I don’t want people to invest half an hour of their time with me and then just say, “Sorry, I can’t help you right now.”

I want to give them a path and a starting point… but 90% of them I can help. Yeah. I still get excited every time. It may feel hopeless right now getting calls from creditors.

Joe: And all the areas that you can impact – that’s a big deal right now. We have COVID-19 and it’s been a long stressful 2020, man. I mean, it’s been absolutely incredible you and your practice, one of the premier practices throughout the Delaware Valley, you’re dealing with everything.

On the front lines, and I say that because your practice handles individuals in financial distress and businesses in financial distress, and those who are in family distress, in marital distress, in custody distress… with all that’s going on right now, you must deal with some of the most difficult situations imaginable. How has COVID-19 impacted bankruptcy and family law?

I mean, I can’t even believe you and your partner even have time to go home. Having said that, give me an idea of how it’s impacted the every day of your practice.

Sadek: Well, we’ll start on the family law side. You know, people are home more than ever with their families, with their children, with their spouses. A lot of divorces are coming up, but people that are getting these divorces can’t move out of the house, as of yet, because of all the restrictions. 

People that are already divorced and have an ongoing custody agreement, you know, most custody agreements and support agreements are born out of a work schedule and wages derived from work. Well, there are so many changes in people’s schedules and their income. So that’s, of course, affecting custody arrangements and support arrangements. There is a lot of work to be done to have the support and custody arrangements in line with the current situation. So there’s been a lot of modifications. Unfortunately, people that cannot get divorced right now, because they cannot physically separate, they’re entering into post-nuptial agreements. 

One thing that has been good luck…We’re going through an awful, awful stage right now. 2020 is absolutely horrible. However, I always like to look on the bright side and I can say, personally, even though I’ve been working probably more than ever I’ve also been home more than ever. I’m home for dinner, I’m home on the weekends, and I have spent more time with my own family. Probably more, you know, than I ever would. Now people, in general, are home or they’re not going to movie theaters and malls, as of yet, with regularity. 

I think we’re getting there, but they’re not sure and because of that, they have time. Even if it’s just time to sit around the dinner table and actually discuss finances. Which is a very very hard conversation. People are used to their financial status quote, whatever that involves, so to make a change it’s very difficult to do. And those changes are born out of conversations that are not going to be had while driving kids to soccer practice, then gymnastics. and then, you know, we don’t have a lot of distractions that we use to. So there is an opportunity to concentrate on the finances and potentially make a change because of that. We have been hearing from our new clients more than ever that people are realizing, you know, “We’re spending x amount of dollars on credit cards, if we had that money in our pocket…we would have savings.” Once they have savings, generally it’s harder to incur debt – just because you have that savings to absorb any potential emergency and keep somebody out of debt. 

So people are reaching out to us just so they can plan and invest financially. Actually in their future. 

Joe: Sure.

Sadek: Now, what is going on as foreclosures are starting once again, as lawsuits are also starting, as far as collection and contractual lawsuits – that precipitates people to take action. So, the people that may not have been proactive in March and April and May are now those people that are kind of forced to say, “Okay, we have this lawsuit in front of us. We were served by a sheriff or a process server. We’re going to have to reach out for help.” So, we have actually seen bankruptcy kind of morph from people that were being more proactive to people that are now playing defense.

Debt relief has been available, bankruptcy courts have been open since March 16th. A lot of other courts have closed. So we have been actively representing people with forbearances, modifications, with mortgages, and also in bankruptcy court and debt consolidation as well. And it’s interesting because there are so many different areas of the law and they’re all affected differently. Workers’ compensation, for example, is moving on without a hitch. Although not, as we know, for a while. No one was working. So the clients sure weren’t there, right. On the other hand, personal and criminal cases were affected.  Even though they settle a lot of the cases before they go to jury trials and criminal proceedings, all, because they depend heavily on jury trials, have been impacted incredibly. Also, immigration or face-to-face has, you know, has been impacted.

Joe: It’s a necessary part of the process, but in your particular area, you know, it’s fortunate. I know it got slow for a while there. It was slow. We’ve had shows in the past in regards to people dealing with their mortgage companies and those types of things. Having said that, you guys are moving along and you’ve really never skipped a beat in regards to representing your clients.

Let me ask you a crazy question. Have you run into any situations, because often, unfortunately, bankruptcy and family law go hand-in-hand, have you run into situations where you have a couple that’s filed bankruptcy and getting a divorce?

Sadek: That is actually why we started the family law practice, you know, over a decade ago. Sometimes it’s a question of what comes first? The chicken or the egg.

Bankruptcy and family law, unfortunately, go hand-in-hand. 

A lot of people that get divorced were used to a two-income household for their biggest expenses – rent or a mortgage. Now, when the couple divorces… now the ex-wife has a rent or a mortgage and the ex-husband has a rent or a mortgage. Therefore, there’s not as much money as there used to be either to pay the debt or their dead is then incurred and then a bankruptcy results,

Of course, a lot of divorces are also caused by financial distress. A lot of arguments are over money. So, of course, that results in divorce. That goes both ways. COVID-19 or now, that kind of has always been the case. People always say, “Oh, do you have people that do a bankruptcy in a divorce?” And we have people that do both within months of one another. Nobody wants to do either. Nobody wants to file bankruptcy and nobody wants to divorce. 

You know, what we do is we try to make it as easy, quick, and painless as possible. Divorce isn’t always our first option. We do say to people, you know, to try a trial separation. bankruptcies are not our first, or only, option either. It’s situational.

Joe: Right. Do you guys often feel like small counselors as much as legal counselors?

Sadek: Absolutely. And, you know, I think we would be doing a disservice if we weren’t. I mean, we are talking to people at their hardest of times and I often say to people over the phone, I’d say, “it’s been 10 minutes and I probably know more about you right now  than your best friend.” Only after 10 minutes.

The thing is people are only going to engage in business if they trust you. And the only way to get somebody to trust you is to listen to them and give advice. And, oftentimes, I give personal advice before even giving legal advice. That is actually one of the pleasures of my job. People say to me all the time, “You should be a psychologist.” Sure. Well, you know, sometimes. First and foremost, I am a lawyer.

Joe: It’s interesting because – and I don’t say this in jest – but I mean, I can only imagine being a fly on the wall and some situations where not only, obviously you’re being outstanding attorneys, but all and personal counseling you give. Which you…that’s just an incredible bedside manner.

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