Our Lawyer Spotlight series highlights Illinois lawyers who are demonstrating the ideals of professionalism in their daily lives. These attorneys are teaching us how to adapt and thrive in the changing legal environment.

Claudia Farfan Badillo is the owner of Badillo Law Group, P.C., where she specializes in consumer bankruptcy law. She is the current president of the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Illinois and was featured in Negocios Now’s Latinos 40 Under 40 Class of 2018.

How is the Badillo Law Group adapting to the changing work environment?

We have gone 100% virtual. I was already doing a lot of phone consultations and sending clients my virtual intake form to fill out online. Now we also collect all documents virtually, with help from my assistant if clients can’t do it or they can drop off documents or mail them to me. We then review documents and have long phone conversations with them.

I do a FaceTime or Zoom call to verify their identity and then I send them documents to e-sign and file their case. The bankruptcy court has also become 100% online and all bankruptcy meetings are telephonic for the near future.

What challenges do bankruptcy attorneys face in navigating COVID-19?

As a bankruptcy attorney, I have been dispensing legal advice for months about the financial consequences of losing income during a pandemic and what debts to prioritize paying when they have lost income. Many of my clients are using credit cards to survive and putting off paying rent or mortgage payments. It is challenging to counsel clients as to what their options are when the situation is changing so quickly.

For example, student loan companies and mortgages are offering people generous forbearance periods, but we don’t know what will happen when those forbearance periods end. Foreclosures and evictions are also halted but all of this will come to a boiling point in the coming months. A big challenge is to help clients decide the correct timing of their bankruptcy filing.

How do you maintain civility during stressful situations?

I always remember that my clients are dealing with highly stressful and difficult financial situations and need a calm voice of reason to help them. Most of the time my clients just want to be heard and treated with respect. I treat all of my clients with the respect they deserve during what is likely one of the hardest times of their lives.

What long-term impacts will COVID-19 have on the legal profession?

I think that more court hearings and meetings will continue to be virtual. I also think that attorneys will rethink the need to work in spacious downtown offices and will find that most of their work can be done efficiently at home, hopefully bringing more of a work-life balance to overstressed attorneys.

How are you maintaining work-life balance during the pandemic?

Speaking of work-life balance, I am thankful that I can work from home while helping my kids during eLearning. I make sure that I am available to my family during the day while still focusing on my clients for a large part of the day (and night sometimes).

Mostly, I have adapted to be more flexible with my time. I also make sure to exercise every day and try to stop working by 10 p.m. That may sound late, but since I am home all day, I find that I prefer doing work while my kids are asleep so I can engage with them during their online classes when they need the most help during the day.

The Commission is celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 – October 15. The annual event honors the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

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