Based on random sampling of NACBA’s membership, the Member Profile strives to answer the question: Who are Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys? It looks at a variety of economic and demographic characteristics, as well as, business practices and “war stories.” NACBA is and always will be your “Your Practice Partner!”
Allow us to introduce, our “Practice Partner,” Attorney Gene Melchionne of Connecticut. NACBA Member since December 2002.
Gene Melchionne is a graduate of The University of Connecticut (B.A. 1977) and Drake University School of Law (J.D. 1980) where he received the American Jurisprudence Award for academic excellence.Since 1980, Mr. Melchionne has focused his practice in the areas of consumer bankruptcy, workouts and foreclosure defense in distressed real estate markets, real estate transactions, condominium law, commercial litigation, business organizations and probate.
Prior to opening his office in 1990, Mr. Melchionne was associated with Grady & Riley in Waterbury, Connecticut and DiPietro, Kantrovitz & Brownstein, P.C. in New Haven, Connecticut. From 1990-1998, Mr. Melchionne was of counsel to Bender & Anderson handling that firm’s complex litigation and trials. In addition to his practice, Mr. Melchionne was an adjunct professor at the American Institute of Banking and Teikyo Post University teaching bankruptcy, real estate, commercial and consumer law. Mr. Melchionne also advised the Corporation Counsel’s office for the City of Waterbury on bankruptcy and foreclosure matters and mentored junior attorneys in that office.
In 2005, Mr. Melchionne was appointed State Chair for the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA). He acts as a liaison between the national organization and Connecticut attorneys who are members of the Association. He has fostered education of attorneys in the bankruptcy field and increased access of the public to bankruptcy relief in light of the law passed in 2005. In 2014, Mr. Melchionne was elected to serve on the Board of Directors for the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys.
Most challenging case:
All of them. Every. Single. Fracking. Case. I don’t think there is a thing such as a “simple” case. Every case has some twist or turn, fact pattern or legal issue, that makes it unique and difficult. Clients have different goals in life or philosophies, levels of understanding or education, and personal histories or situations. The very things that keeps no two cases from being the same is the very thing that keeps things fun and challenging. I strive to take different and difficult cases and if there were such a thing as doing only “simple cases”, I think I would get bored and go find something else to do.
Best advice you received from the national listserv:
Don’t take every case that walks in the door. That’s harder to do these days, but it’s really true. There is no success in filing more cases than you can handle, and ultimately, no money in it either. Part of the secret is knowing when NOT to take a case. It’s tempting when filings are down, but everyone has that one case that they regret taking because it never works out. Once I learned to refuse taking cases and focus only on those that presented interesting legal issues or facts, I found that I could be more successful in those cases and happier doing it. The corollary to that is to also make sure you take time for yourself. This is a marathon, not a 50 yard dash. Go hiking or fishing or something. If you don’t decompress, you WILL explode and it WILL be messy.
The NACBA benefit you couldn’t live without:
That’s easy. The listserv(s). When I joined, there was only one listserv and I faithfully read every post until the volume just got to be too much. I skim now, but I have archived every email posted to the listservs since the day I joined, a feat that I believe has only been surpassed by John Colwell. The wealth of knowledge in those posts easily substitutes for any WestLaw or Lexis service and frequently cases are discussed there months before they are available on any other service. A quick search in the archives and I can find just about any answer to any question I might have.
How many years have you been practicing?
Technically 32 years, but I was active in consumer credit for a while prior to passing the bar, first by working in a local credit bureau, and then by paying for law school by repossessing cars and setting them up for auction.
Who is your mentor – who do you look up to professionally?
I don’t have one mentor that I can point to. When I first started practice in credit union collections (hey, we all make mistakes), I learned a lot from the lawyer I worked for about the business of a law practice. When I did condo association work, I depended on those around me to teach me about condominiums. (I swear one day I will write the book, “Condominiums, A Study In Uncooperative Living”.) But since joining NACBA, it has been the stand out members like Cathy Moran, Jay Fleischman, Jill Michaux, Doug Jacobs, John Rao, Henry Sommer, and just about every other member of NACBA that I look to for answers to just about any problem case.
What is your favorite part of being a consumer bankruptcy attorney?
The practice of law is fun. If you are not having fun, then no amount of money makes it worth it. The downsides are steep, but when things go right, there is nothing more fun or challenging than consumer bankruptcy law. You have creditors trying to take your client’s stuff, you have clients who are desperately trying to keep their stuff, you have stuff that ultimately isn’t worth fighting over anyway, you have courts trying to comply with a stupid law and get cases completed and none of them exist to make your life easy. I know I’m deranged, but when that occasional thank you note comes in, it makes it all worthwhile and keeps me going for the next while. Meanwhile, I get to educate consumers about misconceptions in finance and I learn to avoid making the mistakes I see every day. Isn’t life grand?
Name an area of the law that you’d like to learn more about:
Bankruptcy. Anyone who thinks they know it all already is fooling themselves. I learn something new every week even after 32+ years. And just when you think you’ve got it, you can count on Congress or the Supreme Court to change it so you have to relearn what you thought you knew.
Most memorable moment in NACBA:
The first NACBA Convention I attended was in Las Vegas in 2002. Not only had I never been to Vegas before, but I had no idea that there were that many bankruptcy attorneys in the country. Here I was sitting in a room with 800 other attorneys who faced the exact same problems that I did in the same kinds of cases. It was close to a religious experience. In the first day I met the likes of Kurt O’Keefe from Michigan (if you don’t know him, just listen for him during the next NACBA event) and sat down for lunch with Ike Shulman, Henry Sommer, and Billy Brewer not realizing who they were. Everyone was friendly, supportive and knowledgeable and still is. Never before in my then 20 years of legal experience had I ever been to an event that changed my life and my practice like that. If you are not a member of NACBA or let your membership lapse, you are missing out.
In another life, you’d be……
A heavy metal rock musician. This was actually a real choice; go record a demo album with Aerosmith’s producers in Boston or go to law school. Good thing that heavy metal didn’t work out for me given my current crop of hair!