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Can I get my money back from my bankruptcy attorney for chpt. 7 if I never actually filed?

Carlisle, PA |

I hired an attorney to file chapter 7. I gave him my paperwork. (tax forms, list of creditors and debts, etc..) I have not given him the fee to file with the courts. I have only given him his up front required fees (around 1000). He told me I need to wait until my house is foreclosed and to let the dust settle before I file. It is taking forever (almost 2 years now). The bank is trying to sell it through a realtor now. My attorney also NEVER returns my calls. I sent him a letter stating I no longer want to use him for my bankruptcy, I told him I expect that he will take some of the money I gave him for any time he has already spent on my case but since we have yet to go to court or meet with creditors there should be money left to refund. He refuses to return any $. Can he do that?

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Attorney answers 4


What does your retainer agreement provide? You should ask for an accounting of your retainer (in writing) and if you don't receive an accounting, contact the organization that represents attorneys in your state as well as the office of the US Trustee, which regulates the conduct of bankruptcy attorneys. It is pretty easy to use up a retainer on phone calls and other communications over a 2 year period, but you will never know until you see the itemize billing. BTW, it could be that you owe the attorney far more than the retainer you paid. Hope this perspective helps!


Remember, you hired this attorney to represent you. If he is not representing you properly, you are entitled to a refund. First, I would put my disappointment in writing and formally ask for a refund. If you do not receive a prompt answer, contact the attorney disciplinary board in your state. Attorneys have an obligation to timely respond to client inquires.

I hope this helps.
Steven A. Leahy

Please note that the above is not intended as legal advice, it is for educational purposes only. No attorney-client relationship is created or is intended to be created hereby. You should contact a local attorney to discuss and to obtain legal advice.


I do not normally answer questions concerning the conduct of fellow attorneys or "fee disputes". If you are dissatisfied with the actions of your attorney you are certainly free to contact the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Conduct Board at to raise the issues in your question.

If you think this answer is the best answer or was helpful, please mark it by clicking the "Best Answer" or "Mark as Helpful" button at the bottom of this answer.

Mr. Geisenberger is a Pennsylvania-licensed attorney only. The information is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation. Answering this question does not in any way constitute legal representation. Contacting Jacques H. Geisenberger, Jr., P.C.,does not constitute legal representation, nor is any information you provide protected by attorney-client privilege.


Read your retainer agreement. Most bankruptcy retainers will be on a "flat fee," meaning that you are not paying the attorney's hourly rate, but a pre-agreed upon fee for all of the services in the retainer agreement. Some attorney's will put a "no refund" provision in the agreement. This is used to deter client's from requesting a refund, however, in many states this is not allowed. Generally, the attorney must provide services to earn their fees, regardless of the what the retainer agreement states about refunds. Ask the attorney for an accounting of your fees. If he cannot or will not provide one, look to arbitration through the local bar or state bar.