In these tough economic times, good bankruptcy lawyers can be hard to come by. Identifying them is often about asking the right questions - this allows potential clients to evaluate whether the lawyer is empathetic and understanding, but more importantly if he or she has the experience to deliver on promises. The following is a short list of useful question to help you find a good bankruptcy attorney:
1. What are the alternatives to bankruptcy?
This broad question will give room for the attorney to show his expertise and experience in the field. It also reveals whether the attorney is leaning toward a solution without first understanding the problem. After explaining the alternatives, the attorney can comments about Chapter 7 and 13 bankruptcy options. The overview you are expecting should include a clear summary of the advantages and limitations of each alternative, and should be easy to understand.
2. How Experienced Are You?
Even if the individual has been an attorney for 40 years, they may have only filed a few bankruptcy cases. It’s the number of bankruptcy cases handled and the complexity of those cases that is most important. Bankruptcy laws are subject to change, so it’s vital that your lawyer is up-to-date with all the changes in both federal and state bankruptcy laws.
3. How is Your Firm Different?
This question can be the make or break for many clients, and rightfully so. You should be looking for concrete things that can be verified, not feel-good soundbites like, “we are very trustworthy” or “we’re the best.” What differentiates average attorneys from exceptional attorneys is looking for risks (and opportunities) beyond the standard duties of an attorney, and having the knowledge and services to capitalize on critical situations.
At Lincoln Law, we provide a free consultation, after which we can prepare, review and filing your petition, represent you at the 341 meeting of creditors and handle post-petition court proceedings and documents. But that’s mostly standard for a capable bankruptcy firm. But we go the extra mile, able to incorporate any of the following into your case:
- Tax analysis and asset protection services
- Credit repair and planning education
- Stay and FDCPA violation litigation
- Auto and home evaluations
- Short sale and Loan Modification
- Pre-filing expenses consulting
And the best part is, these extra analyses don’t cost anything unless we identify (and you agree to take advantage of) an opportunity.
4. Who will handle my case?
It’s normal for paralegals and legal assistants to get involved to do the most predictable work, while the attorney will step in to review the most critical elements of the case. While you may think this seems impersonal, it goes a long way to keep costs down in a cost-sensitive field, without risking the quality of work. However, be sure to ask who you will be working with, and to meet them before you get started. In some cases the bankruptcy process can be over in as little as 3 months, but sometimes it can last for up to 5 years, so it’s important to be comfortable with the team you’ll be relying on. Also, there is usually a single hearing for a bankruptcy called the 341 meeting of creditors. Make sure you know who (if anyone) will be attending this hearing with you.
At Lincoln Law, our employees specialize in different areas of the process to ensure the best results. Having said that, you will have a specific bankruptcy attorney dedicated to your case, who will be familiar with details of your case throughout process. An attorney (typically this same one) will accompany you to the 341 meeting of creditors. In the interest of efficiency and cost, you will also work with other staff members who are selectively chosen, highly trained and experienced in handling bankruptcy cases. We’re confident you’ll enjoy working with our team.
5. How much is your overall service charge?
It may be a good idea to save this important question for the end of the conversation. Waiting gives you the opportunity to evaluate the services that the attorney might provide for the case. Some attorneys work on an hourly basis, and others may have a flat fee quote. Additionally, it is vital to understand if there are some other expenses that may be incurred in the process that may be attributed to you - make sure the cost they provide includes everything (including court fees, counseling courses and credit reporting).
It should go without saying - cost is only one factor in the decision to hire an attorney. There are countless stories of individuals that get what they pay for, and show up at our door needing to re-file their case. Without a doubt, there is always someone trying to provide a cheaper service, but beware of low quality services.
We hope these tips will help you find an excellent bankruptcy attorney. If you’re looking for a bankruptcy attorney in Utah or California, call Lincoln Law at 800-404-0018 to set up a free consultation and see how we can make an impression.
Your financial future is at stake, make sure you’ve got the best team at your side for a reasonable price.