If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, there are many choices out there. Often, due to the stigma associated with bankruptcy, people seek out an attorney online rather than asking friends or family for a referral. The internet can be a great research tool, but before you hire an attorney, consider asking the following questions:
- Do you specialize in bankruptcy? What percent of your caseload is dedicated to bankruptcy? Bankruptcy has become highly specialized since the laws changed in 2005. Be wary of "full service" law firms who claim to specialize in everything.
- How long have you practiced bankruptcy in my jurisdiction? An attorney who is familiar with the judges and trustees in your jurisdiction is always beneficial.
- Have you handled a case similar to mine? If so, what can I expect to happen in my case?
- How are your fees charged? Bankruptcy fees can be flat fee, hourly, or a combination. It is also important to understand which fees are covered by your retainer agreement and which fees are not (e.g., court filing fees, credit counseling fees, etc.).
- What documents do I need to provide to your office to prepare my case?
- What documents will you obtain for me as part of your service? Credit reports, real estate documents, income tax transcripts, and other records may be something your attorney can order for you, but these things may require additional fees to be paid.
- Who will prepare my bankruptcy documents? Not every office uses a licensed attorney to prepare your documents. Many use secretaries and paralegals.
- Who will represent me on my court date(s)? Many law offices send an inexperienced associate to court dates or even hire someone outside their law firm on contract to represent you. That person may not be familiar with your file when your case goes before the judge or trustee.
The attorney-client relationship is a very special one. Who you choose to hire will have a longterm impact on your life. Above all else, get your retainer agreement terms in writing.