On October 25, 2022, the City Bar Justice Center commemorated the tremendous support of eleven volunteers, who were awarded with a 2022 Outstanding Pro Bono Service Award, for their remarkable commitment to our clients and for championing our team’s mission to advance access to justice. Congratulations!

Consumer Bankruptcy Project: Christopher Kochman, Associate at Latham & Watkins LLP

The Consumer Bankruptcy Project helps New Yorkers struggling with consumer debt, assists individuals with filing pro se bankruptcy petitions, and provides pro bono representation to debtors in contested bankruptcy matters. 

A staunch volunteer since 2016, Christopher (“Chris”) Kochman from Latham & Watkins LLP has continuously participated in our consumer bankruptcy clinics where he provides advice and assistance to clients burdened with medical, credit card, and other consumer debt. For individuals unable to pay for a lawyer, there is a need for pro bono attorneys to step up and assist them in filing for bankruptcy in order to get a fresh start. Chris has never failed to step up when needed, and he is someone the project has counted on to help meet the needs of its clients. His dedication to providing pro bono services extends beyond himself, as he has recruited several of his fellow associates and firm partners to also volunteer at our clinics. 

In a conversation about using large firm attorneys’ skills to close the justice gap, Chris expressed that it was only right to use the skills and expertise he employs when advocating for big companies with lots of money, for individuals who have fallen on hard times, and who cannot afford legal help to navigate the complex bankruptcy system on their own – like one of his clinic clients whose employer shut down its business during the pandemic. The client was the sole income earner for her family, and despite receiving unemployment and other pandemic benefits, she found it difficult to stay current on rent and other household bills while paying back her consumer creditors. The client was due to receive two years’ worth of tax refunds and planned to keep that money as a safety net after realizing that her employer was not going to reopen at all. However, her creditors threatened to obtain a money judgment to allow them to seize her tax refunds. The client sought consult from Chris at one of the project’s remote clinics. She felt embarrassed about having to file for bankruptcy, but Chris exercised empathy to assure his client that bankruptcy would help provide her with relief from her creditors, protect her tax refunds, help keep her from falling behind on rent, and give her an opportunity at a fresh start. He advised her of her rights and options and prepared a draft of her bankruptcy forms that was used to officially file her bankruptcy case. The client’s bankruptcy filing discharged her consumer debts and protected her tax refunds which prevented her from falling behind on rent and avoided an eviction from her apartment. 

Chris, we are honored to give you this award in recognition of your contribution to the project, and for your dedication and compassion in providing pro bono services to individuals of limited means facing financial difficulty.