Chris Bagley, CFT Clinic student
Chris Bagley, who was supervised by Prof. Carlene McNulty, shares the following on his experiences in the CFT Clinic this year:
After two years of reading cases and
statutory supplements, writing complaints, memos, briefs, and other papers, and
compiling, distilling, and rewriting outlines, I was finally going to have “my”
day in court.
As a participant in UNC Law’s Consumer
Financial Transactions Clinic, I was at Durham County Superior Court with my
client for his foreclosure hearing. I had gotten the case in the third week of
the semester. Two weeks and a crash-course later, I put on my best suit and
felt ready to explain why the opposing party, a large national lender and
servicer, was not legally entitled to put my client out on the street.
This may all seem a bit cavalier and glib. I
don’t mean it to be, because my supervisor – Professor Carlene McNulty – and I
put in a lot of preparation in those two weeks. But the clinic has definitely
given me a sense of practical details that can’t be taught very effectively in
the classroom. I spent a surprising amount of time in those two weeks tracking
down my client with additional questions, checking in with the opposing party,
and then, on the morning of the hearing, printing and labeling exhibits.
Another surprise that I suspect is familiar
to practitioners: The hearing was postponed to early December because we were
there to contest it. A deputy clerk had been assigned to handle the matter, but
Durham County’s elected clerk of court, who is a licensed attorney even though
Chapter 7A of the General Statutes don’t require him to be, has a policy of
presiding over contested foreclosure hearings personally. In any event, the
lender had not arranged counsel.
On the rescheduled date, I
came back with a different suit, a deeper knowledge of the relevant case law, a
written response, and an illustrative poster exhibit for the court. Again, the
lender was not represented. Again, the hearing was pushed back, with no advance
notice to us, this time to January. What do they say about the wheels of
I am absolutely not complaining about the
delays. They’ve allowed my client to get his finances in better order. They’ve
allowed us more time to run dozens of different scenarios for a mortgage
modification using guidance from the Federal Housing Administration and the
Treasury Department. I’ve started to think that he actually has a respectable
chance of making one of those scenarios work.
The delays have also provided some valuable
lessons: Be diligent about checking in with the court and with opposing
counsel. Prepare the client for the unexpected. Be able to shift one matter
onto a back burner for an appropriate time so I can deal with other matters
coming down the pike.
Lastly, our court delays are one facet of my
client’s larger bureaucratic tangle. He has sought help from his mortgage
servicer, from one nonprofit housing counseling agency, and then another, from one
nonprofit law firm, and finally from our clinic. He has been advised to sell
his car, not to sell his car, to work more, and not to work so much that he
endangers his health or his Social Security disability income. Meanwhile, he’s
going through a divorce, which precipitated the mortgage troubles. It must be
bewildering, Kafkaesque, and I can see that it has aged him. It’s a reminder to
us, as his attorneys, that our role as advisors can go beyond the strict scope
of the legal representation, and that society needs us, that we’re helping to
fill a little part of a very wide gap.
Posted by Carlene M. McNulty on Thu. March 31, 2016 12:46 PM
Consumer Financial Transactions Clinic