Choosing the Right Bankruptcy Attorney
How to Identify and Research Bankruptcy Attorneys and How to Determine a Lawyer's Qualifications.
Identifying and Researching Bankruptcy AttorneysLike any other area of law, bankruptcy law is complex. Hiring the right bankruptcy attorney can be the difference between you getting a fresh start or continuing to be stuck in a financial quagmire. If you have reached the point where bankruptcy has become your best choice, you need a bankruptcy expert with whom you connect and who will make sure your rights are protected. Here are some tips that will help you select a lawyer who can successfully guide you through the process.
If you've never filed for bankruptcy, finding the right attorney can be difficult. Consider these ideas to move in the right direction. Friends and family: Ask for a referral to an attorney who has provided excellent service for people you trust. Internet search: Use the internet to search for a local bankruptcy attorney. You'll quickly find a list of lawyers practicing in your area. Reputable referral site: You can find bankruptcy lawyers using sites such as Lawyers.com, the American Bar Association, or a local bar association of attorneys. Or simply contact me: I am an experienced bankruptcy attorney with many successful outcomes. I can provide the same for you. Once you've compiled a list of promising names, you can narrow it down with preliminary research. For example, it's a good idea to check your state's bar association to find out if the attorney has a history of problems. You can also research online for client review, news articles, and other information that might provide insight into the attorney's reputation and capability.
Contacting the Attorneys on Your List. Once you create your list, contact each of your potentials. If you want to speed things up, consider using the following approach: Interview by telephone: many attorneys will answer general questions over the phone. By asking questions, you'll be able to form an impression without meeting in person. Make an appointment: set up an in-person consultation with the most promising candidates. Don't be surprised if you aren't able to speak with the lawyer over the phone. Instead form an opinion based on your interactions with the staff, especially because much of the time you will be working more with the staff than the attorney.
Preparing for the First Meeting. In bankruptcy law, many options exist, so with minimal effort you'll be able to retain the right attorney for the amount that you can afford. To make sure that your selection is a good fit, considering the following before the consultation: Experience level and personality of a lawyer, complexity of your case, and type of firm in which the lawyer works.
Determining a Lawyer's QualificationsHow do you know if a bankruptcy lawyer is competent? Ask questions. Her are a few you won't want to forget: When did you start practicing bankruptcy law (and law in general)? How many cases do you file per year? Do you file each bankruptcy chapter type? Which do you handle the most? Do you practice any other areas of law? Also, the type of firm in which the attorney works can give you an idea of what you can expect.: Bankruptcy firm, solo practitioner, or multi-practice firm. Bankruptcy firms that exclusively practice bankruptcy law offer services at a lower price and can be a good deal if you have a basic case. However, if your case is complicated, or you need a lot of attention, you might not feel that the attorney is sufficiently available. How can you recognize these types of firms? Trust your instincts. You'll be able to tell if the first is set up to process a high volume of cases. These firms also tend to advertise heavily. Solo practitioners commonly practice in a variety of law areas, so you want to be sure that the lawyer has sufficient experience. However, unlike a large bankruptcy mill, you should receive more personal attention from a solo attorney. It can be very frustrating to never be able to reach your attorney at a large firm or always have to deal with a Paralegal or Legal Assistant. A multi-practice firm offers a high level of experience, but it can be much more expensive. Don't forget the importance of hiring an attorney who regularly files bankruptcy cases; it's difficult to grasp the complexities without consistently practicing. Also, be sure to ask specific questions about your case. If you don't receive clear, easy-to-understand answers that demonstrate the attorney's working knowledge, talk with a different attorney.
Is Your Case Important to the Attorney?You should hire a bankruptcy lawyer who will work hard to improve your situation. The right attorney will do the following:
Patiently list to you explain your financial situation.
Ask questions about your problems and goals.
Discuss solutions other than bankruptcy where possible.
Inform you of potential problems with your case.
Sincerely answer your questions.
Ultimately, if you get the impression that you'll work well with an attorney and feel confident that they'll do a good job, then it will likely be a good fit.
How Complicated is your Case?The simpler your case, the less you should have to pay in attorney's fees, So what are characteristics of a simple case? Most lawyers would agree that a Chapter 7 filer who can exempt (or keep) all property, has a limited number of debts owed to creditors, and whose income is well within the qualifying range, would qualify as a basic case. Additionally, the filer would not have the following complications (partial list):
Recent purchase of luxury goods on credit
Recent property transfers
Accusations of fraud
If your case is indeed simple and straight-forward, you might be able to negotiate a reduced fee.