29    is New Mexico’s state ranking nationwide for number of foreclosures per capita by realtytrac.com as of May 2009.

38   is New Mexico’s state ranking nationwide for bankruptcies per capita by creditcards.com as of May 2009.

"Although it may be possible for some people to file a bankruptcy case without an attorney, it is not a step to be taken lightly."—From the FAQ at lawyer Gini Nelson’s nmbankruptcyblog.com

It's an unwritten rule of lawyering that defendants and plaintiffs don't share information. You play your cards close to your chest and fight as zealously as possible for your client, Albuquerque lawyer David Kramer says.

Yet, as lenders request bailouts and families lose their homes, maybe a little communication would go a long way toward keeping everyone afloat. At least, that's one of Kramer's arguments as he, along with consumer law specialist Maria Owen, push for the New Mexico State Bar to open a new consumer law "section," or an official group. The group would meet quarterly to identify "hot topics" and explore new types of dispute resolution outside of court.

"It's no different for attorneys than any other people: Once you start to develop personal relationships with people you have to work with, it can't help but improve the civility and tone," Kramer says. "When you get out of the context of a specific case, if we're able to talk more generally, it may allow us to have different kinds of conversations."

And conversations definitely need to be had about consumer fraud. Too many lenders and brokers had no idea they were committing consumer fraud, Owen says. Kramer adds that everyone needs to be aware of the new and novel forms of fraud emerging in the market.

"Most people who are losing their homes don't have the money to hire an attorney," Owen says. "So the foreclosure process goes quickly. You get a judgment and that's the end, and no one looked at your possible defense."

The state bar currently has a section that deals specifically with bankruptcy law, but Kramer says the section is too focused on the technical details of bankruptcy to deal with the more holistic problems of debt and foreclosure in today's economy.

So far the new section campaign is going well, Kramer says. It takes 50 lawyers to create a new bar section; 26 lawyers have signed on so far.