Flint, MI—After earning her CPA and law degree, then working in large accounting firms in Detroit for eight years, attorney Lynnmarie Johnson knew it was time for a change. Today, she runs her own small bankruptcy practice in her hometown of Flint.
“I don't think there's ever a time a client comes into the office where I don't learn anything from them,” she says of her career in bankruptcy law today. “Whether it's something about what they do, something about their lifestyle, something about what's happened to them in life. My clients seem to have a lot of information and knowledge that they're willing to share.”
Most of Johnson's clients are first-time bankruptcy filers, and many of them have never been involved with an attorney before. “When they first come in,” she says, “they're really afraid of the entire process.”
When they walk out of the office, though, they feel quite differently: “By the time they leave, I can say to them, 'This is where you're at, this is what we're going to do, and this is the light at the end of the tunnel,' and they instantly feel relief.”
Johnson began practicing bankruptcy law because of an officemate. “I was sharing an office with an attorney who was doing bankruptcy for a very long time,” she recalls. “He was going on vacation for two months and asked me if I wanted to follow him around before the vacation for a few weeks to see how I liked it. When I sat down and interacted in-depth with a client to get their bankruptcy information, and realized I could make a big difference in this person's life, I was hooked.”
Since moving back to the economically depressed Flint area, Johnson says that she's kept dog and cat food in her car to help people who would otherwise be unable to keep their pets, and that the cases she takes the most pride in are ones that didn't make her any money at all.
“The cases I'm proudest of are the most complex ones that have been referred to me by a Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 trustee because their attorney either bailed on them or was unable to help them. They send them to me, and I know the money's already gone,” she says. “I take them because I feel so bad for those people. You've got to look at yourself in the mirror every day. If I was in this for the big money, I would be practicing in another area. I wouldn't be practicing in Flint.”
People should start planning early to avoid having financial trouble later, according to Johnson. Her personal financial advice: “If you don't have it, don't spend it. If you need every dime you've got, don't invest in other things. If you get a little extra, invest in something extremely safe—once you get more, you can invest in riskier things. Don't spend it all, don't give it all to your kids.”
At The Law Office of Lynnmarie Johnson, my objective is to provide each individual, family and business client with prompt, high quality services that are consistent with the highest standards of professionalism and ethical conduct.