Bankruptcy is a huge step and it’s probably going to have some effect on your life for years to come. It’s definitely not the kind of legal proceeding you might try to handle on your own. But if you’re considering filing for bankruptcy, you probably don’t have a lot of cash on hand to waste on the wrong lawyer. This makes finding the right one critical
He Specializes in Bankruptcy
- There’s an old saying that you wouldn’t hire a dentist to remove a brain tumor, and the same idea applies to different areas of the law. Some lawyers dabble in all sorts of cases, but true expertise usually requires specializing in a certain area. An attorney who works mainly — or only — in bankruptcy law will be familiar with your state’s laws; more importantly, he’ll have a track record with your area’s bankruptcy trustees. He’ll know their quirks and how they’re likely to react in certain situations, and this can be invaluable. An attorney who handles mostly Chapter 7 bankruptcies might not be the best choice if you want to file a far more complicated Chapter 13. Likewise, it makes no sense to pay a Chapter 13 lawyer — who will usually charge more — to handle a simple Chapter 7 proceeding.
- As your bankruptcy case progresses, you’re going to have a lot of questions. Some attorneys are more available to their clients than others. It’s normal that you’ll probably spend a lot of time with your lawyer’s paralegal, but sometimes you’ll really need to speak with the attorney himself. When you call his office the first time, ask to speak with him so he can answer a question or two. You probably won’t be put through to him because if he’s as good as you need him to be, he’s most likely in court or with another client. The key is whether he calls you back, and, if so, how long it takes him to do so. The norm he exhibits with a potential new client speaks volumes about how accessible he’ll be after you’ve paid him and your case is underway.
You’re Comfortable with Him
- Filing for bankruptcy involves disclosing intimate, personal details of your life and finances. On top of that, you may be scared and stressed. If you’re the type who needs a lot of hand-holding, retaining a bankruptcy lawyer who is gruff and all business probably won’t suit your needs. Even if he’s the perfect choice in all other areas, your selection might turn an already difficult situation into an ordeal.
Cheapest Isn’t Always Best
- Because you’re already low on funds, the cost of hiring an attorney is of paramount importance. Here’s the good news — the bankruptcy laws in most states cap the amount a lawyer can charge you for bankruptcy proceedings. Be wary of super low fees — this might indicate that the lawyer has so little experience, he doesn’t realize he’s entitled to more. He may be desperate for a client — any client, in any area of the law. By the same token, if your bankruptcy is very simple and you have few assets to protect, you should expect a lawyer to charge you less than he would for a more complicated case. Bankruptcy attorneys usually charge a flat fee, but if a creditor objects to some aspect of your case and you end up in court, you’ll probably have to pay more for this service. It doesn’t happen in most run-of-the-mill bankruptcy proceedings, so it can’t be anticipated when the lawyer first quotes you a fee.