Like 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.
Identifying and Researching Bankruptcy Attorneys
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 someone 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 also find bankruptcy lawyers using sites such as Lawyers.com, the American Bar Association, or a local 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 record of problems. You can also research online for client reviews, 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 the 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 he 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, consider the following before the consultation:
- Experience level and personality of a lawyer
- Complexity of your case
- Type of firm in which the lawyer works
Determining a Lawyer’s Qualifications
How do you know if a bankruptcy lawyer is competent? Ask questions. Here 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. You’ll find bankruptcy attorneys in different types of offices:
Bankruptcy firm. Firms that exclusively practice bankruptcy law offer services at a low 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 firm is set up to process a high volume of cases. These firms also tend to advertise heavily.
Sole practitioner. Sole practitioners commonly practice a variety of law areas, so if you choose to go with a sole attorney, you’ll want to be sure that the lawyer has sufficient experience. Also, the amount of attention and expertise that you’ll get from a sole practitioner will vary.
Multi-practice firm. This type of practice 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 listen to you explain your financial situation
- Ask questions about your problems and goals
- Discuss solutions other than bankruptcy
- 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. You might even be able to rely on a less experienced attorney.
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):
- Business interests
- Pending lawsuits
- Recent purchases 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.
For a more detailed discussion about your bankruptcy options, let’s schedule a consultation today.
Moshier Law Office, PLLC
St. Paul, Minnesota