If there’s anything worse than filing for bankruptcy, it’s having to do so and then choosing the wrong lawyer.
Bankruptcy filings have become a volume industry for many lawyers, and debtors contemplating bankruptcy may, sadly, receive subpar legal services. As a result, before engaging a bankruptcy lawyer, you should conduct some research.
Here are ten suggestions to help you locate the finest bankruptcy attorney:
Don’t be a slacker.
Hiring a bankruptcy attorney has all the allure of getting your teeth extracted. But don’t let this deter you from starting your search for a reputable lawyer as soon as you realize you’ll need one. Waiting until the last minute will not allow a skilled attorney enough time to prepare your case properly.
Consult with additional legal professionals.
Consider any business friends you have who may know an excellent bankruptcy lawyer. That’s a fantastic place to start if you have a personal attorney. However, keep in mind that bankruptcy law is a specialized field. If your lawyer offers to handle the case as part of your regular fee, make sure he is familiar with the bankruptcy court.
Spend an entire day in bankruptcy court.
Seeing bankruptcy lawyers in action may give you a sense of the type of lawyer you want to represent you. You can also find out which local attorneys specialize in this type of law at the court.
Find out who sits on the bankruptcy court panels in your area.
The only lawyers on this panel will be well-known bankruptcy attorneys who regularly appear in bankruptcy court. First, obtain the names of lawyers who serve on the debtor or creditor committees of the local bankruptcy court. People who serve on these committees promote business, but they also take their jobs seriously.
Visit law firms.
An office evaluation might provide crucial information about how a lawyer will handle your case. Examine the office to see how nicely it is arranged. Is everything tidy, or are there coffee-stained folders on the floor? You wouldn’t go to a doctor who had a filthy exam room, and you wouldn’t hire a lawyer who had a disorganized office.
Pose a lot of questions.
Once you’ve narrowed down your list of prospects, ask them the following questions (the answers to each of these questions are crucial, so evasive replies are usually a red flag that this isn’t the firm for you):
What credentials do you have?
How many bankruptcies have you dealt with?
How many do you deal with in a month or a year?
How many of those are business filings?
How much access will I have to you during my filing?
Who will I be working with if I am not working directly with you?
Can I interview the individual with whom I will be working?
What is your timetable for filing for bankruptcy?
How will the process be carried out?
Examine the responses carefully.
As previously stated, bankruptcy law is a volume industry, so the time you spend with a single attorney may be minimal compared to what you spend with a clerk or a paralegal. This is another reason to conduct in-depth interviews and thoroughly assess the responses. Did each candidate respond to you fairly and thoroughly? Do both the attorney and the firm have the necessary expertise? Do they appear to be overworked?
Don’t go with the cheapest lawyer you can find.
You don’t have a lot of money to spare in this situation. However, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for. You want a lawyer that understands the system and will do the best job possible representing you. That could end up costing you a little extra. Your local bar organization can most likely assist you in determining if a proposed fee is reasonable and in accordance with local norms. Any lawyer that charges too much or too little should probably not be your first pick.
Find out about the fees.
Find out exactly what is and isn’t included in your lawyer’s costs. A forensic accountant, for example, maybe required in some complex processes. If that’s the case, is it included in your prices or an extra charge?
Maintain your involvement.
If you hire a lawyer, don’t expect them to handle everything on their own. All filings should be double-checked. Where were any of your creditors removed from the list? Keeping track of your bankruptcy petition can help guarantee that the proceedings run smoothly and keep your lawyer on their toes.