WHO ARE WE?
Not all law firms and not all lawyers are the same--do your homework!
Unfortunately, some law firms are too big and impersonal to adequately respond to individual client needs. In some bankruptcy firms, it is unusual for clients to meet directly with their attorney and virtually everything is delegated to paralegals. Other firms are too focused on maximizing profitability and they may quote fees that are excessive for the work required, or they may quote a low fee, but then fail to take the time or make the effort to properly evaluate important legal and factual issues which could affect their clients' cases. Worse yet, there are many fly-by-night attorneys and even unlicensed "bankruptcy petition preparers," who promise great things, but fail to deliver.
At Bordeaux Law, P.C. we are dedicated to helping consumers facing difficult financial circumstances--excessive debt, foreclosure, garnishments, lawsuits, etc. We work hard to tailor our advice to each individual client, as we understand that each client's situation is unique. We care about our clients, we care about our reputation and we care about getting it right. We pay attention to details and work hard to make sure that our clients' cases are handled promptly, efficiently and professionally. We assist clients both with nonbankruptcy negotiations and workouts and Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy filings. We do not currently handle Chapter 11 matters, but we are happy to provide referrals of such cases to qualified attorneys. Our main office is in Pasadena, but we are also available to travel to take appointments at our "satellite location" in downtown Los Angeles.
HOW MUCH WILL A CHAPTER 7 BANKRUPTCY COST ME?
My philosophy regarding fees is that you "get what you pay for," but you should also only have to pay for what you are getting. What I mean by this is that there are simple cases, medium cases and complex cases. A client with a simple case should pay a low, competitive fee for bankruptcy assistance. However, a client with a more complex case would be well-advised to pay for the required research, analysis and preparation and would not be well served by a cookie cutter "one size fits all" approach.
In the bankruptcy context a "simple Chapter 7 case" is one in which the debtor's income is comfortably below the state median income, the debtor does not own a business, real estate or any other assets of significant value, the debtor has not transferred or sold any such assets in the five years preceding the fliing of the case, the debtor has lived in the state where the bankruptcy case is being filed for at least two years, the debtor has not repaid loans from family members or other "insiders" in the past year, the debtor is not likely to face a "nondischargeability complaint," a "motion to dismiss," an "avoidance action" or an "objection to discharge" and the debtor's total debt load is less than $40 or $50,000.
If a client meets all of the above criteria, I will quote them a fee at the bottom of my range of fees (typical range is $799 - $1499 for attorneys' fees, plus court filing fees and other costs totaling approximately $500). If a client has a couple of the above factors present, then I will generally quote them a fee somewhere in the middle of the range, depending upon my evaluation of the amount of time it will take to research the relevant issues and provide competent representation. If several of these issues are present, I will provide a quote for representation that will be closer to the top end of the range. In very unusual circumtances, I have agreed to accept a fee lower than the bottom of my typical range, or I have requested a fee higher than the top end of my typical range.
HOW MUCH WILL A CHAPTER 13 BANKRUPTCY COST ME? AND HOW CAN I GET MY CREDITORS TO PAY MY ATTORNEY?
Our fees in Chapter 13 cases are generally in line with what similar firms charge. In Chapter 13 cases, the Bankruptcy Court in the Central District of California has approved a "no look fee" amount of up to $4,000 + filing fee in nonbusiness Chapter 13 cases and up to $5,000 in business Chapter 13 cases. Chapter 13 fees tend to be significantly higher than Chapter 7 fees because Chapter 13 cases are more complex, involve more work and generally take 3-5 years to complete (compared to six months for a typical Chapter 7 case). While there may be attorneys who charge less than the "no look" fee, most simply charge the "no look fee" amount.
However, there are significant differences regarding when and how these fees must be paid. Some attorneys charge the entire fee up front. This means that clients end up paying the whole $4000, even if the case falls apart, the client is unable to continue in the case, or the plan is never confirmed. We generally charge between $999 and $1,299 plus costs as an "up front" amount, unless unusual circumstances are present. The balance of the fees can generally be paid through the Chapter 13 plan. In some cases, this means that, in effect, your creditors pay for your attorneys' fees.
How does this work? As an example, suppose an individual has $50,000 in debt and he or she is only able to make a monthly payment to creditors in the amount of $300 per month for 36 months, after paying for his or her reasonably necessary cost of living. Suppose the Chapter 13 plan also includes payment of $3000 in attorneys' fees. If the plan is confirmed, then the total payments under the plan would add up to $10,800 (36 x $300). Out of this amount, the Trustee would keep approximately $1080 as Trustees' fees, pay $3,000 to the attorney, then pay $6,720 to creditors. Note that even if the attorney agreed to reduce his fee to $1,000, this would not reduce the overall payments, because the additional $2000 would be paid to creditors, since the total of payments must add up to $10,800. Therefore, in effect, the creditor is paying the balance of the attorneys' fees by receiving less than they would have received if the attorney had agreed to accept a lower fee.
HOW MUCH DO YOU CHARGE FOR OTHER LEGAL SERVICES?
Fees for debt settlement negotiations and other nonbankruptcy legal services are generally quoted an individualized basis. These fees can vary greatly, depending upon the complexity of the legal issues, the amount of work involved and the nature of the work. Before accepting any engagement, we will provide either a flat-fee quote, or an estimate of the total legal fees that will be required, for hourly fees.