Never Go Leeroy Jenkins in a Bankruptcy Case

Man jumpingI still laugh every time I see this short clip from a group of guys playing the online game World of Warcraft. This is from circa 2004 when online gaming was just exploding, and before “esports” was a thing. World of Warcraft is cooperative and lets you play with friends in groups online in “guilds.” In this clip, the group of friends that includes the player Leeroy Jenkins are huddled together formulating a plan on how to attack the enemies in the next room. It’s about as nerdy as you can get, as they discuss their strategy and determine they have a 32.33% chance of success.

Suddenly, you see Leeroy Jenkins decide to just charge into the room alone. He yells “LEEEEEEROOOOY JENNNNNKINS!” His fellow players are initially stunned. They then charge in the room after Leeroy, and are decimated by the enemy. In-fighting ensues among the guild, and the players yell at Leeroy, who famously ends the clip with “At least I ain’t chicken.”

Why on earth is a bankruptcy lawyer describing a decade-plus old video game clip? Because I have the clients that are impatient, impulsive or perhaps just otherwise want to end the albatross of debt hanging around their necks. They want to go Leeroy Jenkins on the bankruptcy process, and just power through. Half the game in bankruptcy is timing and strategy. You have to understand the process and likely outcome from out the outset. You can never foresee everything, but you have to make a reasonable effort to measure outcomes and strategies.

This is particularly the case with Chapter 7 bankruptcy, where I tell my clients that once you file, it’s like jumping off a cliff. That is a harsh description, but that is intentional. There is no right to dismissal, do-over or taking it back in the jump from the cliff or in Chapter 7 (maybe you under certain circumstance you can convert to Chapter 11 or Chapter 13, kind of like opening your parachute a little late). The most complex cases I have fixed in bankruptcy often involve an exposed asset in a Chapter 7, or adversary proceedings in non-dischargeability actions.

On the asset side, the client may have initially represented themselves and not realized that the assets of their spouse are actually part of the bankruptcy. I’ve had clients who were on title to bank accounts and homes without even knowing it. Perhaps the attorney never even asked about a particular asset. Some clients are attacked by creditors or trustees for non-dischargeability issues (such as fraud and embezzlement). Describing several unfavorable scenarios simply illustrates that you want to calculate these risks in advance to the extent possible. Maybe bankruptcy is actually not a good idea, or maybe it has risks, but they are worth it. Just don’t go Leeroy Jenkins in bankruptcy.