How To Find A Bankruptcy Attorney
Your bankruptcy attorney will be your guide and advocate during this sometimes complicated process. It is worth taking the time to speak with a few attorneys and learning what to look out for to help you get on the right path to filing bankruptcy.
You should look for experience, fair pricing, and a style that you feel comfortable communicating with when you hire an attorney to assist you in filing your Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13 case.
Ask for referrals from family and friends to help you find a local bankruptcy lawyer. The National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys can help you find bankruptcy lawyers.
How do I find bankruptcy lawyers to contact?
Many online directories claim to be able to help you find a bankruptcy attorney in your local area. However, many directories only list lawyers in exchange for a fee. They don’t guarantee quality. You should always be able to see the details of any listing that you consult.
These are two resources to start with:
- The American Bar Association.
- The National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys.
You can search the ABA website for lawyers and firms that meet its criteria for lawyer referral. For local resources, you can also visit your state’s bar association.
Only bankruptcy lawyers are listed in the NACBA directory. This directory lists only bankruptcy attorneys. NACBA membership criteria are quite generous. Membership does not necessarily mean quality or experience.
If you are comfortable asking for recommendations from colleagues and friends, these directories can also be used.
Reach out to a few qualified attorneys and set up a consultation. Some lawyers offer complimentary meetings, while others charge $35 for an initial conference. Do not assume that a free meeting means fewer qualifications. Having a few meetings with lawyers can be a great way to get to know them and help you make senile decisions about which one you want.
Three things should be learned at all meetings:
- Is the attorney qualified to assist you?
- Are the fees reasonable?
- Would you be comfortable working with them?
Expertise and experience
To navigate the bankruptcy code successfully, you need to have a piece of solid knowledge and experience in this area of law. Your case could be dismissed if you miss a deadline or file the wrong form. It is crucial to find a specialist.
Dan LaBert is the executive director of NACBA. He says that going to an attorney not trained in bankruptcy law can prove dangerous as they may not understand the complex area of bankruptcy law. “If you have a heart condition, you wouldn’t visit a dermatologist.”
Ask your lawyer if they have any specialized training. The American Board of Certification has certified bankruptcy attorneys who are more familiar with the bankruptcy code than the average attorney. A NACBA affiliation is a sign that an attorney is dedicated to helping people go through bankruptcy.
Ask the lawyers you meet how many Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases they have handled. A good bankruptcy lawyer will discuss with clients other options to bankruptcy, such as credit counseling.
You get the right compensation
Although there is no set amount that a bankruptcy attorney should charge for, a Chapter 13 filing will generally cost more than a Chapter 7. Fees can vary from one state to the next.
For a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you can expect to pay $500-$3,500 and $1,500-$6,000 for a Chapter 13. LaBert states that you can expect to pay between $500-$3,500. The more complex the case is, the more costly it will be. During your first conversation, ask about the fee structure and ensure you fully understand what services are included.
Cathy Moran, a California bankruptcy lawyer, says that the most important thing is getting your money’s worth in any situation. Moran states that you need to understand what is at stake when choosing a bankruptcy attorney.
If you have few assets and don’t mind losing a lot, you can opt for a Smart Car or Ford Escort. If you have equity in your home or are involved in a fight, an Audi or Lexus is the best choice.
Communication and compatibility
Ask yourself if you are comfortable speaking with an attorney before you hire them.
Moran states that communication is crucial because it makes it easier for clients to feel secure. “If you don’t feel comfortable, or if you are worried, you will keep secrets. It will kill your case,” Moran said.
a Moran claims that she wouldn’t be able to determine if your and my assessment of the situation are correct without all your information.
You and your bankruptcy attorney have a difficult task ahead of us: negotiating the best possible deal for our situation. This will require hard conversations and open communication.
LaBert states, “It comes down to having a compatible personality and the attorney.” Your attorney will not be your friend or your best friend. You can expect them to provide hard advice that will often be relevant to your spending habits. The attorney must create a friendly environment for their client.
Avoid “bankruptcy-mills,” or law firms that take on so many cases that they don’t have the time to give your case the attention it deserves. You might consider moving on if you don’t feel comfortable speaking with an attorney one-on-one to discuss your case and your concerns.
This is not a DIY project
These qualities are important to keep in mind as you search for the right job. Take your time and be patient.
Finding the right lawyer to represent you in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13 case can take time. Don’t let that stop you from trying. LaBert states, “I always say pro se, no way” for bankruptcy. This refers to the legal term that allows you to represent yourself.
Moran and he both agree that bankruptcy law can be too complex for an average attorney to handle, or it is just too difficult for them to succeed.
The right attorney will help you execute the debt relief option with success. This will free you up to concentrate on rebuilding your credit and getting rid of all debt.