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Picking a lawyer: our two cents

Bankruptcy is a specialized area of law that can be far more complex than appears on the surface.  The issues are not always apparent or simple.  Pick a lawyer who can help you work through the issues, alternatives and implications of your choices.

  •     Pick a lawyer with whom you are comfortable, one whom you can ask questions and get responses you understand.

  •     Pick a lawyer who either specializes in bankruptcy or does a large part of his/her practice in the field.

  •     Ask questions until you understand what your choices are 

  •     Don't be afraid to interview a lawyer and leave without retaining the lawyer

Finding that lawyer

Look for a certified specialist or a lawyer with substantial experience in bankruptcy:  a generalist can do a simple bankruptcy, but may not be able to tell if your case is truly "simple".  See sources for certified specialists.

Local bar associations have referral panels of bankruptcy lawyers.  Find them in your phone book.  Ask about their experience with cases like yours.

Interview lawyers until you find one who suits you.  Ask how many cases like yours  he/she handles a year, and the length of time he/she has been practicing bankruptcy law.   Find someone with whom you communicate well. How to interview a prospective lawyer.

Get a written agreement for services

Understand what services are included in the quoted fee:

  • are lien avoidance matters included?  
  • disputes with the trustee?  
  • non dischargeability actions? 

Usually, the flat fee covers only the standard services or the foreseeable issues in a bankruptcy case.  Some things, like whether there will be a challenge to the discharge of a certain debt, can't be foreseen at the beginning of the case, and may therefore trigger further fees. 

Make the most of your lawyer's expertise

Disclose everything about your financial condition.  Without all the information, your rights cannot be protected.  All too often, information that a client withholds because they think it is troublesome presents no problem, if disclosed.  Failing to tell the whole truth can create a problem where none existed before.

Read carefully the representation agreement, the draft schedules, the court's notices and communications from your lawyer.  Ask questions if you don't understand at first;  inaccurate or incomplete information can have serious and unpleasant consequences.

Provide promptly information and feed back when requested so that court deadlines can be met.

Take responsibility for your case.  You are the person with the best handle on the facts of the case and the one most affected by the case's outcome.  Your lawyer can file a bankruptcy with you, but not for you.

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