Paying a retainer fee upfront for a bankruptcy lawyer is standard practice. Generally, lawyers will not begin any work for the client or consider themselves the client’s legal representative without receiving some form of payment. Bankruptcy lawyers are particularly careful about the payment fee structure because their fees must be disclosed to the court. The upfront fee payment varies depending on the lawyer and the amount of work required to successfully handle the case
- Set up initial consultations with different bankruptcy lawyers. Many bankruptcy lawyers provide free initial consultations with potential clients. Find out if there is any paperwork that should be brought to the meeting or any forms you need to fill out beforehand. The more information the attorney has regarding your financial situation, the easier it will be for him to provide an estimate of the legal fees he will charge.
- Ask the lawyer to explain the difference between the retainer fee and total amount of attorney fees for the case. Discuss the amount of the retainer fee, the type of work the attorney will start to perform once he receives the fee, and acceptable methods of payment. Some attorneys may require a small retainer fee upfront to start fielding calls from creditors and start collecting documents needed for the bankruptcy case. Attorneys may not begin working on the case until they receive a substantial portion of the total fee. Find out the attorney’s refund policy before giving him any money. It is advisable to know how much money you will get back if you decide not to file for bankruptcy or if you decide to change attorneys.
- Bankruptcy lawyers know that many people interested in bankruptcy do not have enough money immediately available to pay for legal services. Talk about the possibility of setting up a payment plan to cover the retainer fees and any additional fees associated with the case. Provide full disclosure to the attorney regarding any pending lawsuits, wage garnishments or foreclosure proceedings that may occur. Those facts could affect how soon payment must be received to file the case and start bankruptcy proceedings.
- Carefully review the retainer agreement after choosing a particular lawyer. The retainer agreement should provide a breakdown of each fee amount, what it covers and the legal services the lawyer will provide during the case. Make sure the payment terms included in the retainer agreement directly reflect the arrangements discussed with the lawyer. Maintaining clear communication with the lawyer will help prevent any future misunderstandings.