Filing for bankruptcy is stressful enough on its own, but then there is the further challenge of selecting a proficient bankruptcy attorney that you can trust to handle your case. Although it may be overwhelming and confusing, there are some tricks to making the process a little less cumbersome. Since many provide free consultations, take advantage of this opportunity to meet with several potential attorneys to assess whether they are a good legal match. But, how do you decide who is the most qualified and the right choice? Read on to discover five crucial questions you should ask in order to ensure you choose the best bankruptcy lawyer for your situation.
1. How Much of Your Practice is Devoted to Bankruptcy Law?
It is commonly misunderstood that all bankruptcy law offices are devoted solely to a primary practice in bankruptcy. This does not always hold true because attorneys that practice bankruptcy law often also practice other areas of law, such as divorce or personal injury. However, it is important to make sure that the attorney does not just dabble in bankruptcy law here and there. The best candidate to handle your case should devote a minimum of 50 percent of their practice to bankruptcy.
In addition, you may want to ask what percentage of their clients are individuals versus businesses, as well as debtors versus creditors. Ideally, you are searching for an attorney that represents mostly individual debtors. Inquire about how many bankruptcy cases they typically handle in a month, how many they have successfully completed, and how long they have been practicing law as well. If the attorney responds with answers in the ballpark of over 5 years and ten to twenty cases a month, you can rest assured they have the experience necessary for your case.
2. How is Your Bankruptcy Practice Different from Competitors?
Even though this is an open ended question that can be answered in multiple ways, it is a great tool to judge how the attorney responds in favor of his or her firm. If the lawyer responds that the firm is similar to other ones out there, it is highly recommended that you run away as fast as you can. When asking this question, you should be expecting to gain a wealth of positive information about the firm and the lawyer’s practices.
For instance, if the attorney shares that the practice features an effective follow-up program that is designed to help clients rebuild their credit and make sound financial choices down the road, they may be a keeper. Overall, use this question to make sure that the attorney’s practice aligns with your needs and goals for an optimal match.
3. What Legal Expenses Am I Expected to Pay?
Since you are already struggling through a financial crisis, it is essential that you understand every expense that you will have to pay before signing any contracts. Bankruptcy attorneys should be able to provide a comprehensive list of all legal expenses, including federal filing fees, attorney fees, and retainer fees. Fees will vary between attorneys, but the average cost for filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection is about $1,500. If the lawyer cannot give you an estimate or provides one that is not in this ballpark, it is wise to walk away and avoid costly surprises later on.
Moreover, be sure that you understand fully what is included within these fees. Attorneys should be very willing to discuss in detail all of the costs that will be charged during the entire course of your case upfront. If the lawyer provides vague information, it sends up a red flag that cannot be overlooked. You should also inquire about whether the attorney will work out a payment plan that you can afford and that suits your finances.
4. Who Will Work on My Case and Accompany Me to Court?
For most bankruptcy filers, appearing in court is one of the most terrifying parts of the bankruptcy process. Since it is not unheard of for experienced attorneys and partners to push cases off to associate lawyers or even paralegals, you need to receive a guarantee that the attorney will accompany you to court. Having the attorney that has been handling your case from the start by your side in court is truly invaluable.
If there is a practical reason to involve another attorney, gain confirmation that this attorney is experienced, will be thoroughly briefed, and will meet with you prior to the court appearance. Ensure that the attorney has the time to commit to your case and provide the assistance you deserve through this tough process. Be certain that the lawyer is also willing to share contact information that will help you get in touch with them at a moment’s notice.
5. May I Have Contact Information for Past Clients?
While these other questions are great indicators of how the attorney will handle your case, there is no way to truly be confident that the lawyer is not just trying to sell himself and lying. Therefore, it is always suggested that you ask for previous client testimonials from all prospective attorneys before making a final decision. Previous clients will usually be brutally honest about the services they received, so it may also be beneficial to call or email them directly as well.
Another good reason to ask this question is to assess how the attorney responds as well. If he or she instantly clams up and responds that they are uncomfortable with that, there is a high chance that attorney has a slew of unsatisfied clients in their past. Contacting clients or reading client testimonials are the best methods for finding out vital information about the attorney from a trustworthy third party.
Use these crucial questions to find the most qualified and experienced attorney to represent your case. When you select to have the right bankruptcy attorney on your side, the process becomes significantly less challenging and uncomfortable. Within no time, you will be able to begin a new chapter of your life and be on your way to a bright financial future.