Things You Must Know Before You Hire a Bankruptcy Attorney

Hiring an attorney is a decision that must be made carefully, and not dependent on any one factor.  For example, before you try to find the cheapest attorney in town you must take other issues into consideration.  Do you feel like the attorney is professional, courteous, and sympathetic to your situation?  Once you have paid the attorney, how long will it take him to type your petition and have it ready for you to sign?  How often does he return phone calls?  Does he have sufficient support staff to help him with the daily activities of running an office?  How much experience does he have?  Has he ever been in trouble with the bar?  Does his fee include other important aspects of your case, such as assisting in getting lawsuits dismissed, redeeming personal property, and answering questions after discharge?  You may find the money saved is not worth the price you paid.

On the other end of the spectrum are large firms with such high advertising expenses that their fees are quite high.  But those who don’t call around to get quotes may not realize what the range in fees should be.  Before you hire an attorney, there are several factors you must take into account besides the fee.

Some smaller firms deal with fewer cases and offer a very high level of service, and may charge a higher fee in return. Some small firms or sole practitioners handle very few bankruptcies and may not have the knowledge necessary to handle the details of your case. Others charge a very low fee and try to make their profit on quantity, not quality. This can lead to compromised representation. But hiring a large law firm doesn’t necessarily mean you are getting better representation. In fact, it can mean just the opposite.

Bankruptcy Mills: A bankruptcy mill is a high volume, often national chain, law firm that advertises heavily on television and in phone books. Their high revenue allows them advertising resources that local attorneys just simply cannot match. But their clients end up paying for these ads, and the attorney fees charged by bankruptcy mills are often substantially higher. But this isn’t the only issue. When you meet with and choose to retain an attorney, you assume that is the lawyer that you will be working with you. However, in bankruptcy mills, that is often not the case. You may be given an 800 number to call with questions, sometimes being limited to calling only on certain days or times, and then may talk with an attorney whom you have never met. This attorney may not even be in your state! And when you have your hearing, again another attorney you have never met may show up at your hearing to represent you.

Petition Preparers: Another issue in which you must take caution is the petition preparer. These are not lawyers, but often paralegals, whom cannot offer you legal advice. They simply take your information and plug it in the right slots and hand you a bankruptcy petition that’s ready to file. They boast that they can do everything a lawyer can do but for hundreds of dollars less. But do they really? They cannot advise you about assets that you may lose, debts that may not discharge, or other non-bankruptcy solutions that may be available. And if issues arise at your hearing, they will not be there by your side to protect your interests. This is your financial freedom at risk. Do not take a chance just to save a little money. Hire a competent attorney to represent you and protect your interests. It may save you money in the end.

I have seen first hand the effects of bankruptcy mills. At my office, the Law Office of Colby J. Leonard, LLC, personal service is not just a phrase. It’s a business standard. You come first: it’s that simple. Our doors are always open to our clients during regular business hours, no appointment necessary. Phone calls are also always welcome. Our staff is friendly, personable, competent, and understanding of your situation. We don’t try to undercut other attorneys and be the cheapest in town, yet we keep our overhead down so we can charge a fair and reasonable fee. Without the cost of an expensive downtown office and only a modest advertising budget (since many of our clients come by referrals from prior clients), we are able to reduce our fees and pass these savings onto you, our clients.

Did You Know?

Most bankruptcy attorneys offer a free initial consultation. This allows you an excellent opportunity to meet several lawyers before deciding who you want to hire. Talk to them, get a feel for their personality, and how well they can answer your questions. If you feel rushed or that you’re not getting clear answers to your questions, keep shopping around until you find the one that feels right.

Most bankruptcy attorneys offer payment plans which allow you to get started on the process of filing bankruptcy while paying off your attorney fees.

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