Nine Things to Look for When Picking a Bankruptcy Lawyer
Deciding to file bankruptcy is difficult, stressful, and can seem expensive. It can involve other family members and will have a lasting effect on your financial future.
The process is complicated. It is important to have a good attorney by your side.
How do you pick a good bankruptcy attorney? The choice is very important and it is usually made when you are stressed out. Here are things to consider when picking a lawyer.
1. Don’t Put if Off.
When financial problems hit, many people put it off, hoping something will happen to help them avoid bankruptcy. Getting advice from a bankruptcy lawyer does not mean filing bankruptcy is the next step. Lawyers can often give you advice on how to avoid bankruptcy.
Waiting too long to see a bankruptcy lawyer can be a big mistake. Don’t delay – there is no harm is a free consultation.
2. Don’t Rely on a Google Search.
Any lawyer can pay for advertising. The search ranking of an ad is not a sign of the ability of the attorney – it may just mean they paid more money for the ad.
3. Don’t Rely Just on the Advice of Friends.
Your situation is unique. Bankruptcy is a highly specialized area of law. Just because your friend had a great result with a lawyer handling her car wreck does not mean that attorney can walk you through bankruptcy.
4. Look for Specialization.
Bankruptcy is complicated. Many states certify attorneys as specialists in consumer bankruptcy. To find a list of certified specialists click here then enter your city and state.
5. Check out the Cost.
Ask how much! Much of the actual work in a bankruptcy case can be done by employees of the attorney. This results in lower costs to you, so do not expect that your case will be handled exclusively by an attorney. An efficient bankruptcy attorney can quote a flat rate for your case. Make certain you know what this flat rate covers (and doesn’t cover) and make sure the attorney will see you through to the end of the case.
If you and your attorney decide to file a Chapter 13 case (as opposed to Chapter 7), some or all of the attorney fees may be paid as part of your repayment plan. Make sure you know what the cost is and what it covers. In this case, cheapest is not always best.
Note: It is not unusual for an attorney to charge extra if a creditor (someone you owe money to) challenges something. Ask specifically how this would be handled in your case.
6. Look for Professional Associations.
Look for an attorney that is active in local or national associations such as the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys or the National Association of Chapter 13 Trustees. If an attorney attends training programs offered by these groups, it shows they are keeping current on the law.
7. Look for Signs of Organization.
When you visit a bankruptcy attorney for a (generally free) consultation, check out the organization of the office. Is it in chaos or does it appear to run efficiently? When you are waiting, is the phone answered and is the person answering the phone pleasant and smart? If the office gives the appearance of pandemonium, you may want to meet with another lawyer.
8. Look for a Pleasant Staff.
Most bankruptcy attorneys rely on professional, well-trained staff. As said above you will be dealing with paralegals. This is normal and one way attorneys keep costs down. It is important that you not only feel comfortable with your attorney, but also with the staff. Find out if the attorney will assign your case to a particular staff person and, if so, make sure you feel comfortable talking to that person. If you don’t feel comfortable with the staff of the attorney, then that attorney is probably not right for you.
9. Look for a Listener.
Your financial story is yours and different from everybody else. The best attorneys listen before they can recommend a course of action. Whether you decide to not file bankruptcy or file Chapter 7, or Chapter 13, remember that the case is yours, not your attorney’s. They should listen to your goals, your views, and facts about your situation. If you are meeting with an attorney who starts giving opinions before they listen to your whole story, it is probably a good idea to keep looking.