5 “must-haves” from a bankruptcy lawyer
If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, your best bet for a successful outcome is to choose a good bankruptcy lawyer. While it is possible to file for bankruptcy on your own without hiring a lawyer, it is not advisable to do so.
the the judicial system advises, “Filing for personal bankruptcy under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 requires careful preparation and understanding of legal issues. Misunderstandings of the law or errors in the process can affect your rights. The law prohibits court employees and bankruptcy judges from offering legal advice. “
How a Bankruptcy Lawyer Can Help
Here are some ways in which a bankruptcy attorney might prove worthy of hiring:
- Help you decide whether to go ahead with a bankruptcy filing in the first place.
- Advise you on which type of bankruptcy to choose (the two main types are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13).
- Advise you on what property you might keep.
- Give your opinion on the tax consequences you will face.
- Advise you whether you should continue to make payments to creditors.
Here are some key things to keep in mind when looking for a bankruptcy lawyer to represent you.
1. Find a specialist
Lawyers practice in several areas and your best bet would be to go with someone who specializes specifically in bankruptcy law. Lawyers who are a little bit of everything are unlikely to be familiar with the granular aspects of bankruptcy law or with the latest legal developments in this area of practice.
Membership in associations such as the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys would be a good sign.
2. Choose a lawyer with adequate experience
Find out about the level of experience of a lawyer. It is not necessarily the case that a person with more years of experience is always better equipped than a person with fewer years of experience. What matters is the number of bankruptcy cases they have successfully dealt with.
the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Lawyers (NACBA) advises, “Some lawyers have practiced bankruptcy law for many years, but have never really mastered the subject. There are other lawyers who have practiced general practice, filing a case from time to time. If they’ve been practicing for 25 years without a lot of in-depth bankruptcy experience, that doesn’t translate into the expertise you need.
3. Focus on bankruptcy lawyers with local expertise
In addition to being familiar with bankruptcy laws, the lawyer should know the local laws of the court where your bankruptcy case will be filed. Bankruptcy proceedings tend to vary from one locality to another. That is why you should look for a bankruptcy lawyer who has practiced in your filing locality. They can use their knowledge of local court procedures and staff to your advantage.
4. Avoid bankruptcy factories
There are “bankruptcy factories” that handle a large number of cases without focusing on the specifics of each client’s case. Avoid lawyers with such an assembly line approach.
There are also “case preparers” who are not qualified lawyers and will just fill out the bankruptcy paperwork for you. They cannot offer legal advice or guide you through the bankruptcy process. Also beware of hiring them.
5. It depends on your comfort level
Ultimately, you should go to a bankruptcy lawyer who you feel comfortable with. Look for someone who can listen to you and get the details of your case to better understand your situation and represent you.
Don’t make a decision based on price alone. Paying a good lawyer their going rate could save you money if they represent you successfully. Someone who charges a low rate could take shortcuts, which could lead to a bad outcome in your bankruptcy case.
Ask around for references and also do your own research online. The NACBA could also serve as a resource. Hopefully this will help you find a bankruptcy lawyer who will meet your needs and lead to a positive outcome for your case.