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Firm Overview

Although I had been around bankruptcy law most of my life (as my step-father was one of the most respected practitioners in the Midwest), I wanted a career as a litigator. I spent a great deal of time around bankruptcy, as an intern for Judge Lindquist, and clerking and working for Indianapolis bankruptcy firms. Still, I yearned to litigate. I spent six years in Louisiana litigating insurance defense claims. That experience is (surprisingly and accurately) described in John Grisham novels.

In 2000, I opened my own practice doing general litigation, but I always returned to Bankruptcy. In the last two years and have found the happy medium. I found a way to blend my passion for litigation with my lifetime of experience in Bankruptcy. Following models set up by Max Gardner, I concentrate nearly all my practice in consumer bankruptcy litigation. I protect consumers from unscrupulous creditors and fraudulent mortgage servicers. I cannot tell you how satisfying my job is when I get to hand my debtor clients money obtained from their creditors.

I set up my office in the Federal Courthouse in Terre Haute and took whatever came through the door. I quickly developed a reputation for handling federal matters and focusing on bankruptcy. I was the first in the district to actively seek adversary matters and take on cases asserting violations of RESPA, TILA, and other discharge-related violations. I set up a completely different type of practice from the traditional Bankruptcy mill that relied upon mire filings for fee generation. In addition, I realized that if I could get my fees paid by creditors, rather than my clients, I would be a very busy lawyer.

In 2006, after being exposed to the concepts put forward by Attorney Max Gardner, I shifted the focus of my practice to 90% bankruptcy and litigation in support for clients. As a result, I do not market on TV, radio or newspapers to generate client referrals. Most of my cases come from other lawyers and word of mouth from past clients. The case that generated my highest fee was a pro bono case. My client paid me zero and the creditor paid me plenty.

Example cases

I am hesitant to discuss cases because each case is different and each outcome can be different. However, I can highlight two cases of note:

In the last year, I had a case referred to me from another attorney who found working with a man particularly difficult. I took great care to listen to him, and I could tell he was uncomfortable in my offices. With time and patience, we were able to accomplish all of his goals. At the conclusion, he told me, "Before I met you I wouldn't give 'a can of spit' for lawyers, but I would give you a can of spit." I am guessing that was his way of saying I changed his mind at least about one lawyer.

The second case involved a single mother, who had decided that her home was no longer worth near what she owed on it. I took her case for no fee, and accomplished her chapter 7 bankruptcy, but the mortgage servicer continued to hound her. We filed an adversary complaint against the servicer that resulted in their completely releasing her lien. We then sold her house for $40,000. Even then, she was hounded, and we sued again, getting additional money from the mortgage servicer. She got rid of all of her debt, kept her personal property, and was awarded $50,000. That was not a typical case or result but we are getting similar results on some cases.

Main Office

Main
318 South Fifth Street
Terre Haute  IN  47807

Phone
  • (812) 232-9300
Fax
  • (888) 806-5575

Fees

Free Initial Consultation?

We offer a free initial consultation on most types of cases. There is no limit on the time for such a consultation. We want our prospective client to get comfortable with the process, and hopefully with the firm that will guide them through that process.

Services Offered For Fixed Fees?

We have fixed fee arrangements for Bankruptcy and contingent fee arrangements for adversary law suits on behalf of bankruptcy clients. We do Pro Bono representation in certain cases. We will offer a $100 discount to anyone who mentions that they first learned about us through Nolo.

Hourly Rates

$275 per hour on limited cases.

Office Information

Office Hours

Monday through Friday
8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Office Manager

Jolyn Guess

Emergency After Hours

Yes

Languages Spoken

We have access to Spanish, Russian and German interpreters.

How did your firm decide on the primary area of practice(s)?

Although I had been around bankruptcy law most of my life (as my step-father was one of the most respected practitioners in the Midwest,) I wanted a career as a litigator. I spent a great deal of time around bankruptcy, as an intern for a bankruptcy judge, and clerking and working for Indianapolis bankruptcy firms. Still, I yearned to litigate. I spent six years in Louisiana litigating insurance defense claims.

In 2000, I opened my own practice doing general litigation, but I always returned to Bankruptcy. In the last two years I have found the happy medium. I found a way to blend my passion with my lifetime of experience in Bankruptcy. Following models set up by Max Gardner, I concentrate nearly all my practice in consumer bankruptcy litigation. I protect consumers from unscrupulous creditors and fraudulent mortgage servicers. I cannot tell you how satisfying my job is when I get to hand my debtor clients money obtained from their creditors.

What is your firm's point of view regarding clients educating themselves on legal issues?

There is nothing better than having a well informed and involved client. I encourage all of my clients to read everything they can about Bankruptcy and the mortgage industry in particular. I love to field questions from my clients, because it means that they are actively engaged in the process and hopefully the outcome as well. Some clients don't want to know about the process, they just want the result. That is a pity because they are more likely to have to undergo the process again than the client who understands the process. I provide my clients with alternate resources and maintain a blog for them to reference as they initiate their "fresh start."

Is your firm willing to review documents prepared by clients?

I am completely prepared to review documents prepared by clients and assist in their presentation for filing. I will not attempt to scare self filers. There is plenty for them to be afraid of, but I will aid in every way I can to help them get it right the first time.

Is your firm willing to coach clients who want to represent themselves?

For professional liability reasons, I avoid using the term "coach." I will consult or I will represent. If the prospective client does not want me to represent, which is completely fine with me, I will give them my opinion on issues upon request, but I am reluctant to guide them from the side lines. My experience tells me that if something goes wrong in that kind of setting, (as it frequently does) the client will say, "He told me to do it," regardless of whether that is the case or not.

In a consult situation, I am careful to document the scope of my consultation and limit my advice to the form preparation and not the accuracy of the content. In a consult setting it is difficult to get all the information necessary to assure the accuracy of the forms that must be submitted. I can advise what needs to be filed and what information is needed, like "please list all assets," but it takes considerable time to interview a client to obtain their full list of assets, and consultation clients rarely want to pay for the time it takes to get that accuracy.

Bryan 'Scott' Skillman

I started in a large sized law firm (35+) and quickly realized that the environment was not right for me. I left there to become a prosecutor and get trial experience. In 1993, I fell in love with a woman who was moving to New Orleans, so I also moved. After taking the Louisiana bar exam, I litigated cases representing insurance companies. I worked in a medium sized firm and a small firm before moving back to Indiana in 1999.

My father once told me that he did not like or trust lawyers. That was a painful thing to hear from your father after you have gone to law school, but it gave me the insight to consistently monitor how I relate to my clients so that I earn their trust and teach them that lawyers are not to be feared. I assure them that they can and should not be afraid to ask anything no matter how trivial it may seem.

From the very first meeting, I listen carefully to my clients. I try to present an air of informality in our setting which sends the signal to the client that we will help them with their issues, and that the problem they face today will only be temporary.

Personal interests:

I am a father and community leader. I am active in my religious congregation and college rugby alumni association. I am on the board of the Candles Holocaust Museum. I also like to golf.

License
  • Bar Number: 13771 49
    Indiana , 1987
Education
  • Valparaiso University School of Law
    Juris Doctorate , 1987
    Valparaiso, IN
    I was selected for the trial advocacy team.
  • Miami University
    Bachelor's Degree , 1984
    Oxford, OH

* Nolo has confirmed that every member attorney has a valid license and is in good standing with the state agency that licenses lawyers. Any past disbarments and suspensions (with possible exceptions for minor violations or nonpayment of dues, in our discretion) will be indicated accordingly in the badge. Member attorneys are required to notify Nolo immediately if they become the subject of any disciplinary action by any state licensing agency.

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