Choosing any professional, whether it be a doctor, lawyer, contractor, plumber, or whomever, requires a good deal of comparison and research.
I’m often asked what specific things a client should be looking for when hiring a bankruptcy attorney.
What should they ask?
How do they know they’re getting a quality attorney and won’t get ripped off on fees?
What to Look for When Hiring a Bankruptcy Attorney
There are lots of ways to find a bankruptcy lawyer. You can simply “surf the ‘net” and see what comes up, or go to bankruptcy lawyer specific sites, such as nacba.org
While there is always an element of faith and luck involved in such a selection, there are things you can do to ensure you find someone that fits your needs.
I answer dozens of questions online each week in free legal advice posts, and one of the most repeated fact patterns is that their attorney did not do something properly, or isn’t communicating with them, or otherwise just messed things up because they didn’t know what they were doing.
A lot of times they were things beyond the attorney’s control, but many times it was purely inexperience or bad lawyering on the part of the attorney, which can lead to the client losing assets (such as their home) or losing their discharge, or worse.
These types of nightmares can be reduced or eliminated if attention is paid to certain criteria when selecting your attorney.
Research The Attorney You Want To Hire
Start with the attorney’s webpage. Nearly every attorney has one now. It should contain a lot of information about them and their credentials.
In addition, you can look up information on them independently, also using the internet and other resources.
Here are a few factors I suggest you consider or ask about when researching which bankruptcy lawyer to hire:
- How long have they been practicing bankruptcy law?
- Do they handle exclusively bankruptcy cases, or do they dilute their practice by handling other areas?
- Are they a Board Certified Specialist in Bankruptcy Law?
- Are they well thought of by their peers? You can check neutral, independent evaluation sites to see if they have a peer review rating such as lawyers.com or avvo.com.
- Is the attorney recognized as an expert in the field? I regularly answer questions from distraught individuals whose attorneys have essentially abandoned them, or hopelessly botched up their case. Some of their stories really make me sad.
- How many cases do they handle each month? How responsive are they when you ask a question (i.e. how long does it take to get a response?). You want an attorney with experience, but not one who is filing such a high volume of cases that they don’t have time for any of their clients. The high volume attorneys do tend to be less expensive, but in most cases will not give you the same attention and service as others. You need to balance everything and see what fits for you.
- To what legal groups do they belong? This can be an indicator about the extent of their commitment to bankruptcy law and how well they are able to keep up with the constant changes, both locally and nationally, in interpretations of the law.
- Do they charge unusually low fees? An attorney who advertises a low flat fee for filing a bankruptcy case should be a red flag. As with most things that seem too good to be true, so are these types of offers.
Have Consultations and See if You Fit
Most bankruptcy attorneys offer free initial consultations, or at least very inexpensive ones.
Take advantage of these to find out your options and also to learn about the attorney and get a feel for how you think you will get along with them and how well they will represent your interests.
In fact, if you haven’t found the information I listed above already, ask the attorney about any of them.
Just because they have or don’t have every item on my checklist above doesn’t mean you should or shouldn’t hire them.
They are just for you to use for comparison and a guideline to prevent you from getting a lemon.
Image Courtesy of Lazurite