No one wants to be sitting across from Mary Hoben on a Thursday morning, but they are awfully glad she's there.
Hoben is one of 16 attorneys who donate their time and expertise to low-income Minnesotans at a free bankruptcy advice clinic. The new clinic, held at the U.S. Courthouses in Minneapolis or St. Paul, was set up on a trial basis this spring to assist people tackling the painful and mind-boggling task of filing for bankruptcy without an attorney's help. The walk-in clinic was made permanent this fall because demand is strong. In the worst recession since the Great Depression, is that surprising?
Bankruptcy filings in the state have surpassed levels last seen in 2004, the year before the law was overhauled in an attempt to reduce bankruptcy numbers. Filings are up 30.6 percent over last year, with 19,380 personal bankruptcies filed in Minnesota through November. Close to 1.3 million people have filed nationwide, an increase of 32.1 percent from 2008, according to the National Bankruptcy Research Center.