- How to find a decent bankruptcy attorney
In most areas, advertisements for bankruptcy lawyers are everywhere, from radio and television ads to billboards and yellow pages.
Even though you can find an attorney simply by opening up your telephone book and randomly picking a name, how do you know that this person will represent your best interests, without overcharging you for their services?
The best way to select a decent bankruptcy attorney is through referrals. Referrals can come from a wide variety of sources. Have you worked with an accountant or another lawyer, for example, in a divorce proceeding or business matter? Even if your former attorney does not practice bankruptcy law, he or she may be able to provide you with a handful of professional recommendations. Your accountant may also be able to provide you with a list of names.
Many local bar associations also have lawyer referral programs. These programs attempt to match you with an attorney in your area who is well suited to handle your unique situation. In addition to providing you with referrals, many bar associations can also provide you with the names of organizations or attorneys who may consider taking your case on a pro bono basis, which means that they could provide their services to you for free. However, it is very difficult to find pro bono bankruptcy representation, because virtually everyone who is looking for this kind of service is under some type of financial distress.
Do you know anyone else who has filed bankruptcy? Friends, relatives, and co-workers can be a good source of information. Find out who they retained to file their bankruptcy, and ask for their feedback regarding how they would rate the services they received.
In addition to seeking referrals from trusted sources, you should also do your own homework to make sure any person that you hire is a good match for your situation. Before calling a bankruptcy firm, make sure it is located in your area. There are some national firms that take clients, but they do not provide the personalized service that a locally based office can provide. For example, they will take all your information via telephone, mail, and Internet, prepare your forms, and then mail them to you for your signature. They can hire local counsel on your behalf to attend the
Section 341 Meeting of Creditors, but this person may have very little firsthand knowledge of your case, and may not be able to provide you with competent representation if your case trustee has issues with your filing. It is in your best interests to find a lawyer who is located in your city and who will be able to provide you with help during every step of the bankruptcy process.
In addition to ensuring that you hire an attorney in your area, also make sure that you are comfortable working with anyone you plan to retain. Many bankruptcy attorneys will provide an initial consultation at no cost.
During this meeting, if the lawyer does not adequately answer your questions or take the time to explain the process to you, you should not feel compelled to hire them. Think of this initial consultation as a job interview, where you are the employer, and the lawyer is the prospective employee. If you do not feel that the attorney is competent, call and schedule a meeting with someone else, until you do find someone that you are comfortable with handling your case.
When hiring a bankruptcy attorney, another important factor to consider is the fees that he or she will be charging you to handle your case.
The majority of bankruptcy attorneys charge a flat fee, although some do charge hourly. If the person you want to hire charges an hourly fee, ask him or her for an estimate regarding how much your overall charges will be, so that you are not shocked when you receive the final bill.
Also, it is important to note that the court charges fees for the filing of your case. As of this writing, the court’s fees to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy are $306, and the fee to file
Chapter 13 is $281. When discussing fees with potential bankruptcy attorneys, find out if the court’s filing fees are included in their rates, or if this is an amount that you will need to pay for separately.
Finding a decent bankruptcy attorney is not difficult, but it will take some research on your part. However, this is time that is well spent and may help to ensure that you have competent representation during the course of your bankruptcy proceedings.