Pursuits of Happiness, 18 VTBJ, Winter 2018-#6

PositionVol. 44 4 Pg. 6


Vol. 44 No. 4 Pg. 6

Vermont Bar Journal

Winter, 2018

Renaissance Rebecca: An Interview with Rebecca Rice

Jennifer Emens-Butler: I am at the office of Cohen & Rice in Rutland to interview Rebecca Rice for our Pursuits of Happiness column. So Rebecca, as you know, I have a regular column where I interview lawyers with interests and passions outside of the practice of law. I have had interviews with people who have musical talents, excel at competitive sports, have passion for the outdoors or passion for volunteer work. And for you, it’s all of the above, correct?!

Rebecca Rice: Correct!

JEB: Yet, you have a very busy practice as well, so we want to get to a little bit of information about your busy life and as many of your pursuits that I can cover, ok?

RR: Yes, ok.

JEB: So, what is the nature of your practice, just so our readers know a little bit about you.

RR: Right now, it is solely bankruptcy.

JEB: Soley bankruptcy. You used to do other things?

RR: I used to evict tenants.

JEB: You wore the black hat [laughs]?

RR: [laughs] Yes, I used to wear a black hat. I used to do foreclosures even, and now I only do white hat work.

JEB: White hat…it’s mostly Chapter 13’s for debtors, right?

RR: A good chunk it, at least half of my bankruptcy practice is Chapter 13.

JEB: And the 13’s are the ones that can last a long time, 3 to 5 years or longer?

RR: Or longer.

JEB: Or longer, right! Do you have an estimate of how many open cases you have at any given time? I know when I was practicing I used to tell people numbers close to 100 and they thought that was ridiculous, but it is probably true, right?

RR: Yes, it’s true. I have at least 200 open cases right now.

JEB: 200! Wow. And you have a staff to help you with all these cases?

RR: Yes.

JEB: So your practice is definitely full time. Do you work weekends?

RR: I try not to, but I frequently end up working on the weekends, sometimes from home.

JEB: Ok.

RR: But on the cold days or the nasty days, I will come into the office.

JEB: It’s warmer here?

RR: It’s warmer here.

JEB: I was wondering how you find hours in the day for your pursuits of happiness when you have over 200 cases, but you do find the time?

RR: Yes, on the weekends, I do not check email, and my cell phone is usually turned off.

JEB: That is incredible. People have a hard time doing that, even though it is recommended for mental health reasons. But yet you have a couple hundred balls in the air at once. Do you set that expectation ahead of time? You just tell them you don’t answer on the weekends…

RR: Right, my clients know that I don’t check my emails on the weekend, and a lot of my clients don’t do much by email.

JEB: They walk in, they still do everything on paper, old school?

RR: Yes, and do their credit counseling by phone, because they don’t have a computer.

JEB: It is good that you don’t find that it adds any stress--not being able to be in contact—because while there are urgencies, perhaps there aren’t emergencies. As Judge Conrad said, there are no real emergencies in bankruptcy, because it’s only money, with the only exception being cows.

RR: Yes!

JEB: Your cows needing to be milked is the only emergency there is.

RR: Don’t talk to me about cows…my problem with cows right now is basically, that I am the only one doing chapter 12 [farm cases].

JEB: So, you have all the cows.

RR: I have all the cows and right now, with the milk prices where they are now, I am getting calls out the wazoo.

JEB: Right. And those are true emergencies, if somebody walks and the cows don’t get milked, they will die.

RR: Fortunately, most of these are coming in before they are quite so desperate, but then there is always the question of how we get the $100,000 of money that we need in this spring to plant.

JEB: And those are some of the hardest cases, and I would say that adds to the stress.

RR: Yes, the 12’s are stressing me out right now.

JEB: It’s called compassion fatigue. Judges get compassion fatigue, because you just hear story after sad story about these dairy farms and it must be a little bit depressing.

RR: I realized that there is only so much I can do, there are only so many hours in a day, and I cannot solve everybody’s problems.

JEB: That sounds like a good motto. But you do a pretty good job in solving most of them, it sounds like.

RR: I try.

JEB: Now, you have a busy home life and I have fallen for this before, where you say “I would like to show you a picture of my kids” like anybody else does, and then I see they are quite hairy, these kids, that you have shown me.

RR: And they all have 4 legs!

JEB: Yes, they all have 4 legs! So, how many ‘kids’ do you have?

RR: Well, those kids, the goats, I currently have 14.

JEB: 14 goats! All 14 very cute kids. Some would say cuter than other people’s kids, right? They are cute, they are loyal, they are a little bit crazy.

RR: Troublemakers.

JEB: Now, do you do farm chores in the morning yourself before you come in to work?

RR: Yes, I do.

JEB: Every morning?

RR: Every morning, unless I must be in Burlington at 9:00, and then I have a 10-year old neighbor who is now my barn manager-in-training and she and her father come over and she does the chores.

JEB: That’s impressive. I don’t think I could get my own kid to do that many farm chores in the morning.

RR: Fortunately, she is home schooled, so it makes life easier for her.

JEB: That is a lucky thing to have when you are trying to get out in the morning. What other kind of animals do you have on the farm?

RR: Currently, I have 9 horses, 7 of which are mine and 2 boarders, and 2 dogs and a cat.

JEB: That’s a lot of hairy legs! So we’ve hit passion #1, the farming outdoor life, right?

RR: Yes.

JEB: But the reason why you have 7 horses of your own is that you have a sporting interest in the horses too, correct?

RR: Yes, that’s right. I used to compete in combine training...

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