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Bruce A. Ralston
Attorney and Counselor

Consumer Bankruptcy Lawyer

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Helping Resolve Consumer Debt Issues, Including:

Student Loans

Contrary to popular belief, in most cases there are options for dealing with student loan debt. Regardless of the situation, if it involves student loans we can probably help. Unfortunately, there are some situations that are impossible to resolve, but you can't know where you stand without having an expert review your details with a practiced eye. That's why I always start with my $250 "Step 1 Student Loan Analysis." (More on that later.)
Some people only have federal loans, some have private, and some have both. Many people aren't even sure what kind they have, and some who believe that theirs are one kind are surprised to learn that it's actually the other. Whether yours are federal, private, both, or you just aren't sure, we can help you figure out where you stand and what your options are, often for a lot less money than you might think. Once you know where to start, some of those options can be quick, cheap and very effective. Most of the time this does not involve bankruptcy at all, but in certain situations bankruptcy can be a valuable tool for dealing with student loans, especially if you have other problematic debts in addition to student loans.

Please do not wait until things are out of control. Even if you are technically in default, most student loan debt is fairly easy to deal with as long as there is no active garnishment or lawsuit. Even if there is a lawsuit, our firm has an excellent track record for resolving lawsuits with no judgment being taken. However, once the garnishment starts and/or once the judge rules in their favor in a lawsuit, things become much more difficult and expensive, and sometimes impossible to deal with.

The fee for our “Step 1 Student Loan Analysis” is only $250, during which you will learn everything that you need to know about your student loan situation, including where you stand, exactly who you are dealing with, what options you have going forward, and how much it might cost to take further action. After some initial back-and-forth, Step 1 usually takes between 30 and 45 minutes, with an absolute limit of one hour. This can be done by telephone, via Zoom (or other teleconference), or in our office. There is no obligation on your part to proceed past Step 1.

After several years of doing this we have found that in roughly half of our cases Step 1 is all that you need, either because there is nothing else that can be done, or because what needs to be done is so simple that you can do it yourself, or some situations call for waiting for some other process to play out before taking action. In 95% of the cases where there is more to be done, the fees for the next step fall between $300 and $1,000 (most commonly $500 or $750). Any additional fees are set in advance, so there are no surprises. The main exceptions to that rule come when we are defending collection lawsuits which were filed outside of Shelby County and/or they are seeking more than $25,000.

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Lawsuit Defense

Why do unsecured creditors file collection lawsuits? It's simple. Because winning the lawsuit gives them tremendous leverage. Before filing suit there are only three things that they can do to people who haven't paid: (1) Bother you; (2) put negative information on your credit report; and (3) file suit. In other words, there is nothing that they can actually do to you or your property. Even the filing of the lawsuit, by itself, means very little. Of course if you are served with lawsuit papers you have to take that seriously and respond properly, but in a way it's just a warning that something bad could happen soon if you fail to deal with it properly. The mere fact that a lawsuit was filed against you has no actual effect on you, your property, or your credit. It’s the judgment that comes when they win the lawsuit that gives creditors all of the extra rights and powers. Once a judgment is taken against you (meaning that the bad guys won the lawsuit), creditors can garnish wages, levy on bank accounts, register the judgment as a lien against your property, and even force you to come back to court every so often to testify under oath as to your income and assets (to make it easier to collect from you). If you have been sued but no judgment has been yet been taken, we can often prevent the taking of that judgment. In many cases we can force them to dismiss the lawsuit outright, and in other cases we can negotiate very favorable settlements. Of course, that isn't always the case, but we have a very good track record.
If someone has already taken a judgment against you, or if it is inevitable that a judgment will be taken, we will make sure that you know what to expect, what to watch out for, and what your options are, up to and including bankruptcy. We offer a free consultation for this and most other situations (other than student loans), and for most of our lawsuit defense cases we charge a standard flat fee, so there are no surprises. If you have one or more lawsuits pending, and if you are going to file bankruptcy anyway, try to get the bankruptcy filed before they take any judgments because in most cases that will stop the lawsuit(s) cold. That way the bankruptcy will be the only big negative on your credit record. If they take the judgment first then the bankruptcy will still discharge the debt, but the legal fact of the judgment will stay in the public records section of your credit report for 7 more years.
Two pieces of free advice:
1. Never ignore lawsuit papers, even if you are certain that it's a mistake, or that they have the wrong person (which happens more often than you might think). If you are served, and you don't either go to court or hire a lawyer to do it for you, then they WILL take a judgment against you, and once that judgment becomes final 10 days later there may be nothing that can be done about it.
2. Conversely, if you get word that you have been sued, but you haven't been served with the lawsuit papers yet, DO NOT go to court. It is the plaintiff's burden to serve you with those papers, and the lawsuit cannot go forward unless and until you have been served. If you show up in court the judge will rule that you have waived service of process, so then the lawsuit can go forward even though you haven't been served. There is one exception to this, but it's too complicated to explain here. Just call us and let us show you how to check the court clerk's online docket for yourself. (This assumes that the lawsuit was filed in Shelby County. No other counties around here have that online access.)

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Income Tax Debt

The IRS and other taxing agencies are inconsistently aggressive. Sometimes they go after a relatively small amount of money, while at the same time they will overlook someone who owes $100,000 or more. Don’t try to make any sense out of it, but don’t take any chances either. Regardless of the amount, if it’s a lot of money to you, then you need to get out ahead of the problem.

Beware of the companies that advertise on TV and on the internet about resolving IRS debts “for pennies on the dollar.” They aren’t even coming close to telling you the whole story. In the first place, while they make it sound as if they are miracle workers, what they are actually doing is taking advantage of a specific process set up by the IRS. It’s a fairly simple formula, which either works for you or it doesn’t. If it does, great. We can do that just as well as those other guys, but we don’t spend millions on advertising, so we can charge less. If that process won’t work in your particular situation, and if you owe more than you could ever possibly pay within a few years, or if you have other out-of-control debts at the same time, then bankruptcy is definitely something to consider. Yes, personal income tax debts can sometimes be discharged in bankruptcy. If your only significant debt is this outstanding tax, then we will do our best to find an option that does not involve bankruptcy, but the more debt that you have, the more attractive bankruptcy becomes. We offer a free 45 minute consultation with one of our attorneys to discuss your options.

Note: We do not prepare tax returns, but can refer you to a few different professional tax preparers.

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Repossessions & Foreclosures

Repossessions and foreclosures are two branches of the same tree. These two terms essentially describe the same thing, but there are some significant differences between foreclosure of real estate and the repossession of vehicles or other personal property, and it is important to understand those distinctions. With a foreclosure, you usually have some actual warning such as letters from your mortgage company and/or their attorneys, but once the foreclosure sale has happened you will probably never get that property back. With a repossession, there is often little or no warning, but in some cases there is a chance of getting the car (or whatever the property might be) back. In rare cases you might even have the right to sue the creditor or the repo man. In most cases we can get a repossessed vehicle back if a Chapter 13 is filed within ten days of the actual repossession (sometimes longer). Let us help you understand your options if you are behind on your mortgage or car loan. Please contact us for consultation.

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Debt Collection Defense

Always remember that you have rights, even if you really do owe the debt. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act applies only to debt collectors (almost anyone who is trying to collect, other than the actual original creditor), and the law requires them to treat you with truth, fairness, dignity and respect. If a debt collector is bothering friends, family, co-workers, employers or anyone else about your debt, cursing or calling you names, or threatening to have you arrested, or especially if they are contacting you about a debt that was never yours, or has already been paid, or has already been settled in compromise, or the statute of limitation has expired, or that was already discharged in bankruptcy, then you may not only have the power to make them stop, but in some cases you could actually sue the debt collector and force them to pay our attorney fees. Contact us to schedule a consultation.

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Credit Reporting

Credit reports are a necessary evil in today’s world. They are nothing but confusing, and the information is not always reliable. We can help you with issues such as identity theft, credit repair, trade lines, mistaken identity (such as Senior/Junior mistakes), general incorrect information, etc. Most credit report issues aren’t really that hard to deal with, but there is one right way to do it and a dozen wrong ways. We can guide you through the process, usually at very little cost to you. In fact, we don’t charge anything at all to review your credit reports with you or to to help you dispute incorrect notations on your reports (although you will have to pay the postage, which can be considerable). Please contact us to schedule a consultation.

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Tax Debt: Income & Property

The most common property taxes are for real estate, but businesses also have to pay “personalty taxes” for their machinery, equipment and vehicles. When you fall behind on those property tax payments the city, county, and sometimes the state can and will take action to collect, including forcing the sale of that property. If you or your business is being dunned or sued, or if a tax sale has been scheduled, then we can often either help you set up a payment plan, or if you have other significant debts, we can save the property by filing a chapter 13 case, or perhaps a chapter 11 for a small business whose debts exceed a certain limit. If the county has already sold your home or other property for taxes, you have anywhere from a few months to one year to “redeem” that property, depending on how far behind you were at the time of the sale, among other factors. Redemption basically means that you repay whoever bought the property at the tax sale, plus interest and court costs. We recommend not attempting this process on your own due to the intricacies of deadline and court filings. Please contact us for a consultation.


No two bankruptcy cases are exactly alike. Two people with very similar circumstances and desires may end up with different results. Any specific examples offered in this web site are only meant to demonstrate possible results. They are not to be taken as predictions of the end result of your particular case.

All statements regarding bankruptcy law and procedure refer to local practice in the Western District of Tennessee, which courts are located in Memphis and Jackson, Tennessee.

Lemon Law
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Bruce A. Ralston; Attorney and Counselor

We are a federally-recognized debt relief agency. In addition to all of the other ways we help people with debt and credit issues, we also file bankruptcy cases under Title 11 of the United States Code.

Bruce A. Ralston; Attorney and Counselor

2670 Union Ave. Extended, Suite #1228
Memphis, TN 38112


Hours of Operation
Monday: 9:30 AM – 6:00 PM
Tuesday: 9:30 AM – 6:00 PM
Wednesday: 9:30 AM – 6:00 PM
Thursday: 9:30 AM – 6:00 PM
Friday: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
*Later times may be available. Please contact us.

accredited business BBB rating: A plus

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