Bankruptcy - Do I Need an Attorney?

IF SO, HOW DO I PICK ONE?

Welcome

Do I Need an
Attorney?

How to Pick an Attorney

Typical Cost for a Simple Case

 

How to Pick an Attorney

 

Below are a number of things to watch out for or to ask your attorney when you meet with him/her. If you will not be meeting with an attorney, or if he/she seems unwilling or iritated by your asking questions or attempting to discover these clues ... That attorney is NOT right for you! As you roll your mouse onto each box, an explanation for why each is important will pop up!

Some important things to remember:

Things to Think About....

 

Do you actually get to meet with an Attorney? How long has the attorney practiced Bankruptcy Law?
Did someone quote you a fee over the phone before he/she reviewed your situation? Does the attorney have a big banner or a big advertisement saying "$500 Bankruptcies?"
Does the attorney explain why the day you choose to file your case is very important? Does the attorney have designated "filing days" when they file all of their cases?"
Has the attorney successfully done many Chapter 13 cases? If you own a home, did the attorney discuss liens on your home or possibly stripping a 2nd mortgage?
Did the attorney ask about past and upcoming tax refunds? Does the attorney or staff belittle you in any way or suggest that you're not worth their attention?
Do they require proof of what income you have earned over the past 6 months? Does the attorney have a permanent office with staff?
Did they bring you into their office with promises of a low fee and then start adding things to it? Does the attorney have a grievance record with the Bar Association or Supreme Court?
Did anyone at the office suggest hiding assets or cash or suggest that you unrealistically value your assets? Did you ask a clerk at the Bankruptcy Court about the attorney and they "roll their eyes" and claim they can't say anything...?
Does the attorney discuss in detail the assets you have that may be "non-exempt"? Did the attorney or staff suggest paying the filing fees in installments when you are capable of paying it in full?
Did the office offer to allow you to pay part of your attorney fees "after" the case is filed? What other types of work does the office do? Is the attorney really a Personal Injury or Divorce attorney?
Is Bankruptcy the attorney's "sole" practice (or at least 75% of it?) Will an attorney that you actually met in the office be attending the Meeting of Creditors with you?
Does the attorney or his staff speak bad about other clients in front you? Does the attorney tell you all of your options and ways that you might be able to strategize and time your filing?
Has the attorney honestly assessed your case, or simply answered in a way calculated to get your business?  
   
Knowing your options and timing your date of filing due to strategizing is often the most important part of your case. The attorney shouldn't be in a hurry to get all of your fees and file your case if it isn't in your best interest!
We have been embarraseed too many times by clients running around at the Meeting of Creditors asking "Are you my attorney?"
Bankruptcy is no longer an easy field that general practitioners should be dabbling in. Keeping up with the law, rules and court rulings requires a full time practice in Bankruptcy.
The courts are cracking down on this. You really must show that you are indigent (not just in debt) to be permitted to pay in installments. Generally, the attorney collects this amount from you and makes sure that it gets paid. These attorneys only want to pass the obligation on to you.
If you are really interested, go down to the Bankruptcy Clerks' office and mention a couple attorneys your are considering. They can't really suggest who to use, but its fun watching their reactions!
Most Bar Associations or State Supreme Courts have a website that makes this information public record.
Careful, we see a lot of new and fly-by- night attorneys who have made no committment to a full time practice. They may be here today and gone tomorrow ... all to your detriment.
We've always wondered ... why does an attorney practice if they think their clients are idiots or irresponsible. Bankruptcy attorneys should be those wanting to help clients get out of detrimental situations and who understand that life brings unexpected challenges.
Mortgages and liens on houses can be special problems that warrant close examination. There may be ways to get rid of the liens or remove 2nd mortgages (Chapter 13 cases only). But it doesn't help to find out after your case is already filed.
The crux of a Bankruptcy case is "Options" and "Timing." Your case should be filed based on when it is best for you ... not when it is convenient for the office to file your case.
RUN! Some even advertise a "free" bankruptcy. So how dumb are you really? This attorney wants your business so bad that he or she is willing to lie to you or to bait and switch you to higher fees. Chances are this attorney is one who thinks you are an idiot.
It's a valid question. Experience is quite valuable in technical and complex areas of the law such as modern Bankruptcy law. An experienced attorney knows the options, the ins and outs, the clerks at the court, and has extablished that he/she can successfully practice in this field.
Just because an attorney says "yes" to you (often in an attempt to get your business), doesn't mean that the law, a Judge, or a Trustee agree.
This is a good sign concerning what they likely tell other clients about you! This may also suggest that they have a hard time keeping cases and clients confidential
As we've stated repeatedly, Bankruptcy is no longer an easy field that general practitioners should be dabbling in. Keeping up with the law, rules and court rulings requires a full time practice in Bankruptcy.
OK, think about it. If this is the case, you owe a debt to your attorney that you incurred before the Bankruptcy case was filed. Your debt to the attorney is "DISCHARGED" by your bankruptcy. You don't have to pay him. If he insists that you sign a "Reaffirmation Agreement," that agreement can be backed out of and the attorney likely (and unethically) failed to mention this to you!
We've seen many an attorney that doesn't discuss this with you, doesn't plan or strategize prior to filing, and then when the Trustee wants the asset or $$, will simply tell you "Oh, well! That's just part of the cost of filing Bankruptcy." A good attorney may be able to strategize and save you from losing a few otherwise non-exempt assets.
RUN! That attorney is guaranteed to tell the court that he never gave you that advice ... and he won't come to visit you in jail.
Well, what happened to that low fee? This is commonly referred to as "bait and switch." Are you stuck because you got scammed? Of course not. Run and find another attorney, even if you have to pay a bit more.
The "Means Test" requires accuracy and the US Trustee's office will examine actual paystubs and your tax return. "Estimates" of your earnings may result in having your Chapter 7 forced into a Chapter 13 or a Motion to Dismiss your case.
Many of the cut rate attorneys will ask this question only when its too late and the Trustee wants to take your future refund as non-exempt property! This is part of proper timing and planning!
These are an extremely technical type of bankruptcy and only the best attorneys who keep up with all of the minute changes can do them well and know how to plan and prepare them to your benefit.
The day that you file can be VERY important depending on the day in which you are paid, the amount in your bank account on the date of filing and for other reasons. Some attorneys don't care and file only when it is convenient for them.
How on earth did he/she have any idea if there were hidden or unknown problems until he meets with you? This office is only using the quote (likely a low one that won't stand) to goad you into coming in.
While paralegals can be knowledgeable, if the attorney is too busy to meet with a prospective client, he's probably too busy to give your case much in the way of personal attention at any point in the process.