How to Hire a Great Bankruptcy Lawyer
The stress of mounting debts and cash shortfalls have you worried about your family’s immediate needs and your children’s futures. After too many sleepless nights and long days of nagging worries, you’ve finally reached the place where you know you need professional help.
Take a deep breath.
You’re going to find the help you need, and you’re going to be able to provide for your family. Finding a great attorney to guide you through the debt consolidation or bankruptcy process is the next step toward regaining control of your life and building a stable future for those you love.
Lawyers, like other professionals, often specialize in particular areas. A lawyer who is the best at representing those accused of drunken driving is not necessarily the best attorney to write your will. Likewise you don’t necessarily want the attorney who got your buddy a great settlement in his recent divorce to represent you in bankruptcy court.
You want to hire an attorney whose specialty is in debt consolidation and bankruptcy, and one who has a proven track record of representing his or her clients successfully.
Friends and family: While your buddy’s referral to his great divorce attorney is probably not the direction you want to go, a good place to start is talking with family members and friends who have recently hired an attorney to represent them with financial issues such as debt consolidation or bankruptcy. Did they feel their attorney represented them well? Were they happy with the outcome of their case?
Lawyers: As we’ve already said, just because the attorney you hired last year did a great job helping you navigate your insurance claim, it doesn’t mean that lawyer will be the best person to help you navigate bankruptcy. That attorney, however, may have a recommendation for a great lawyer who specializes in debt consolidation and bankruptcy. A legal professional with whom you already have a trusting relationship is a good resource to use when trying to find a bankruptcy attorney.
Directories: As a last resort, when you can’t get a recommendation from someone you know and trust, turn to both local and online directories. Local bar associations generally have a directory of attorneys and the areas in which they specialize. There are also several online directories of attorneys who specialize in debt consolidation and bankruptcy. Most of these are searchable by zip code so you can find lawyers in your area. If you go this route, the next steps in ensuring you’re hiring the right lawyer become even more important.
What’s it going to cost?
Once you have referrals, you’re going to want to find out how much hiring a particular lawyer is going to cost and if it’s a reasonable amount. Try to find out what a few different attorneys in your area are charging for debt consolidation or bankruptcy cases similar to yours.
In most parts of the country, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy will cost you a few thousand dollars in attorney’s fees, plus court fees and required counseling fees. Attorneys fees will vary depending upon your geographical location and the complexity of your case.
In addition to finding out how much the attorney charges, you are going to want to know how and when the lawyer will require you to pay. Your attorney may not require that you pay anything right now or may require that you only pay a percentage of the fee up front. All or part of what you owe your attorney may be payable as part of the repayment plan set up by the court.
What will you be getting for your few thousand dollars? Your attorney will prepare and file required forms, create a repayment plan, and attend court with you or on your behalf.
Meeting potential lawyers
Now you’re ready to have an initial meeting with an attorney (or perhaps a few attorneys). Most attorneys will have a first consultation with you at no cost.
The lawyers with whom you’ll want to set up a meeting have gotten good referrals from people you trust, they have experience and expertise in debt consolidation and bankruptcy, and their fees are reasonable based upon the research you’ve done.
What do you hope to learn during these meetings? What do you need to know to decide if this is the person you want to hire to represent you? There aren’t necessarily right or wrong answers to many of the questions for which you will be seeking answers. The right answers are those that will help you to feel comfortable and assured that this attorney is going to be handling your case in the way in which you wish for it to be handled.
Find out if the attorney or a paralegal or assistant will be the person with whom you will be dealing most of the time. What parts of the work on your case will be handled by the lawyer and what parts will be given to other staff members?
Try to learn if this attorney really has the time to handle your case in the way you want it handled. Find out what the wait time is like for a return call if you leave a message. Find out how long you will have to wait for an appointment if something comes up that you want to discuss with your lawyer in person.
Even though you may already know, ask the attorney to explain what the process will be and what you can expect at each step along the way. Ask the attorney questions and consider how the questions are answered. Are you comfortable that this attorney can communicate with you in a way that will make you feel comfortable as you move through the debt consolidation or bankruptcy process? Are you comfortable that this lawyer will keep you informed about what is happening in your case in ways you can understand, and that the attorney will be willing and able to take time to explain more if you don’t understand the specifics of what is happening.
Did you like the lawyer? No matter how great the attorney might be or how many successful bankruptcy cases are part of the track record, if this is someone you just don’t like, you should look for other legal representation. You want to hire an attorney who can communicate with you and with whom you are going to feel comfortable presenting your questions and concerns.
Hiring the lawyer
So you’ve gotten your referrals, you’ve found out the costs and you had a great first meeting with someone you think will represent you well in your debt consolidation or bankruptcy case. Now you’re ready to hire this attorney.
Your lawyer will prepare a contract for you to sign.
This contract should include the agreement you and the attorney reached on what your costs will be and how and when they are to be paid. The contract will also include a description of the scope of the work you are hiring the lawyer to do.
Congratulations! You’ve hired a great debt consolidation or bankruptcy attorney, and you are now on your way to regaining control of your financial life and building a stable future for your family.
Get us on your case! Your phone call and first Discovery Meeting is totally free of charge and we can get you back on your feet as quickly as possible…