How to Find a Bankruptcy Attorney
How to Choose a Bankruptcy Attorney
The process of choosing a bankruptcy lawyer involves two steps. Interview the candidates that match your criteria, and then keep the one you like the best.
So, you’re in deep financial trouble. You are behind on student loans, mortgage, and car payments. Six credit cards maxed and heading that way on the seventh. Finally found a job. However, the salary is 20% lower than what you earned when you were in financial trouble.
Every day, there is an anxiety layer that wraps around you. All you want is to scream “H-E–L-P!”
There is some good news. There are many options to help you start a new life. You can file for bankruptcy, and your car or home might not be lost.
It is as easy as choosing a bankruptcy attorney capable of helping you get out of this horrible situation.
It’s a great first step to recognize that you are too far gone to handle things independently. The law of bankruptcy is complex and difficult. Bankruptcy courts are overwhelmed by the debts of those who try to represent themselves. Self-represented filers often end up worse off than before. They lose their possessions and cannot discharge any of their debts.
According to Catherine Peek McEwen, a Tampa-based Bankruptcy Judge Catherine Peek McEwen, bankruptcy judges use a term for these situations. “We call it “a mess.”
That is what everyone wants.
Start Point to Choose a Bankruptcy Attorney
Many websites on the internet can help you find and vet candidates. However, it is still worth using old-fashioned methods. Ask your neighbors. Ask your neighbors. (Yes, it is necessary to lose your pride. Maybe there are lawyers on the homeowner’s association board. Your church’s board will likely have lawyers. Ask them all for their recommendations.
You can also find information on the state and local bar associations. Simply enter your city and the terms “bar association” or “bankruptcy lawyer” into your favorite search engine.
It is a good idea to hire a bankruptcy specialist
Start the vetting process. A variety of sites, including Avvo, Martindale-Hubbell, offer peer ratings and allow for searches based upon the number of stars. Martindale-Hubbell is particularly interested in lawyers whose photos have small, red hexagonal signs that include “AV” in their center. This is their highest ranking.
One caveat: Four-star lawyers with a few reviews should be avoided. They might have been given by teammates from the softball team.
You will most likely need a bankruptcy lawyer. Although the bankruptcy law’s last major revision was in 2005, the interpretations remain constant.
Judge Peek McEwen states that you might think a sentence in the statute is simple. But it’s not. Only specialists can keep up with the most recent rulings of circuit courts, all the way to the U.S Supreme Court and how they apply to clients.
This is a good sign if the specialist attorney is a member of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys. (nacba.org). They are always up-to-date on relevant rulings.
Check to see if your candidates are certified. This, according to the American Board of Certification (abcworld.org), means that they have met rigorous, objective standards and demonstrated knowledge in bankruptcy law and/or creditors rights law.
Is there anything else? Are the authors of articles in professional journals or books? Are they available to speak at bankruptcy conferences? Both are recognized by peers as experts in their field.
You should also investigate the history of ethics complaints against lawyers. This information is usually available on the website of state bar.
After you have completed that, it is time to schedule interviews. For comparison purposes, schedule at least three interviews. Don’t be discouraged by candidates who charge a low consultation fee. If you and your attorney agree to work together, the fee can usually be added to your bill.
Make sure to ask your lawyer what you need to bring to assess your situation fully.
What should you ask a bankruptcy lawyer?
Interviewing a bankruptcy lawyer is a great way to feel confident in their ability and that they are interested in solving your problem. These questions will help you reach both.
- Start by asking your lawyer if you are a qualified candidate to file bankruptcy. If so, what type of bankruptcy?
- Find out how many bankruptcies they have filed and which types.
- What size is the practice or affiliate firm of the lawyer? While boutique and single-proprietor firms may offer a more personal touch, larger firms have greater resources. The complexity of your case may determine which one you choose.
- What is their response time to calls? How do they charge for calls?
- How involved will the attorney be? Is he going to file all of your paperwork? Is he going to accompany me to court?
You’re searching for someone who is dedicated to helping people get on their feet again. After the interview is over, you can write down your thoughts in a notebook or take them with you to your phone.
These are your questions:
- Did the lawyer hear you?
- Was the lawyer trustworthy to you?
The Three E’s of Choosing a Bankruptcy Attorney
Reed Allmand is a Dallas-based certified bankruptcy attorney. He stresses the importance of guiding the selection process by “three E’s”: Empathy. Experience. And Expense.
Let’s reverse them. We don’t care about empathy or experience if we can’t afford it.
It doesn’t take insolvency to ask the question: “How much will this cost?”
Allmand stated, “You should be capable of finding a bankruptcy lawyer who can work with your finances… for reasonable attorney fees.”
Compare shop. Many offer plans that permit legal services to be started without large upfront payments. It is possible to use the term “reasonable attorney fees” as a relative term. It is not a good idea to get burned to make an already difficult financial situation worse.
Allmand advises against hiring “dabblers,” who are often more interested in closing the door quicker than the details of a client’s predicament.
Avoid also “bankruptcy Mills,” high-volume law firms which treat customers like used car salesmen.
These are some of the signs that you might be being passed through a mill:
- They are very proud of their advertising
- They file many bankruptcy cases every month.
- They have little contact with clients or attorneys and rely heavily on non-lawyer support staff to help them with the file.
- They do not file documents on time
- They arrive unprepared at hearings
Do not get too “milled” when searching for a bankruptcy lawyer. Volume doesn’t matter. Empathy, experience, and expense are what matter.
Don’t let the final decision scare you
Like any professional in bankruptcy, Allmand understands that you feel shame and guilt. An advocate who focuses on judgment and condescension is not what you want. An attorney who is compassionate about the client’s needs will be a plus.
He says that they might be going through a divorce. Their child is ill, their car breaks down, or their job is lost. An experienced bankruptcy attorney will know that overwhelming financial stress can lead to more problems and worsening misfortunes.
Allmand recalled a client who spent the day trying to prevent a next-day expulsion… and seriously considered suicide an option.
She eventually made it to Allmand’s office, late, messy but still determined. They began to help her get a better day with Allmand’s empathy.
Judge Peek McEwen says this is the essence of bankruptcy laws. They are meant to help people get a fresh start. She has 12 years of experience as a Tampa bankruptcy attorney. Good bankruptcy attorneys want to help people navigate a successful path.
She says, “We hope that the experience isn’t frightening.” It is not meant to be frightening. “We’re all trying to help others get through it.”
Make wise choices.
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