Mercer Law School launches new bankruptcy program

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headshot of Ishaq Kundawala standing in a courtroom
Ishaq Kundawala. Photo by Mercer University

Mercer Law School has launched a new program to help Central Georgians file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief who otherwise would not be able to afford it.

A straightforward liquidation bankruptcy, Chapter 7 enables people to get a fresh financial start by disposing of many types of unsecured debts, typically in a span of three to five months, and can put a stop to foreclosures, evictions, repossessions, and other types of creditor collection efforts. In a Chapter 7 case, people typically pay their attorney the legal fees upfront, which many can’t afford.  

Mercer law students are working under the supervision of mentor attorneys to provide no-cost legal assistance to qualified people who could not otherwise afford to pay a lawyer to file their bankruptcy case. 

Mercer Professor Ishaq Kundawala, who holds the Southeastern Bankruptcy Law Institute and W. Homer Drake Jr. Endowed Chair in Bankruptcy Law, is overseeing the program.

“This is a serious access to justice issue with many people in our community,” Kundawala said. “Oftentimes people find themselves in situations not of their own making — such as unexpected medical expenses, death of a family member or other circumstances — that prevent them from fulfilling their financial obligations. Our goal is to get our community members the help they desperately need. We want to bridge the gap that exists between people, lawyers and the justice system.”

Mercer Law’s Interim Dean Karen Sneddon appreciates the critical importance of the program.

“Professor Kundawala’s leadership has brought a much-needed program to Middle Georgia that will increase access to legal services. With each matter handled, Mercer Law students will make a difference to that individual and to the community,” she said.

The students participating in the program are excited about the work they will be doing.

Sadie Hobbs, a third-year law student, said, “(a) successful bankruptcy can drastically change a person’s life. I really want to be a part of helping people get a fresh start.”

Jonathan Hall, another third-year law student, said he is “grateful to get hands-on experience” that will help him better serve his community as an attorney.

Mercer Law is working together with Georgia Legal Services Program to assist with client intake and screening. Client intake runs through March 2023. To get more information and determine whether you qualify, please call Georgia Legal Services Program at 1 (833) GLSPLAW (1 (833) 457-7529) for a screening or email freshstart@law.mercer.edu.