Filing bankruptcy is an important decision and one that requires you to take drastic steps to right your financial ship. Although you can file a bankruptcy case without a lawyer, I would no more recommend that you do so than I would recommend you try to preform surgery on yourself, or try to pull your own teeth. Interview and hire an experienced, knowledgeable bankruptcy lawyer when you need help, and here are a few things to consider when doing so.
- Going with the cheapest guy in town may cost you. While price is certainly a huge component in selecting any professional, I would strongly caution against selecting the cheapest lawyer you can find. Often, the cheapest lawyer is inexperienced, doesn’t perform the full range of necessary services, or seeks to “unbundle” their services by charging you piecemeal for their work. Don’t always believe what you read, a lawyer who publishes what appears to be the cheapest price around is a warning sign that he or she does not take the time, or make the effort, to evaluate each case on an individual basis to determine a fair fee. Again, do you look for the cheapest doctor you can find when you are ill?
- Make sure whomever you interview is knowledgeable, available, and hands-on. I never understand attorney friends of mine who refuse to give their cell phone number to their clients. If you don’t want your clients to be able to reach you when they have questions or concerns, you shouldn’t be in this business. Granted, I have had clients call me at inopportune times, but there is nothing wrong with answering your phone and asking someone if you can call them back. You should ask whomever you interview if they will be available to you whenever you call, if they answer their calls personally, and if they will be your point of contact during your case. In my office, the answer to all three questions is yes.
- Experience matters. Bankruptcy law is a highly specialized area of practice, and you should not be shy about inquiring about a potential lawyer’s experience. Ask how many cases they have handled, how many issues such as the ones you present they have faced before, and how long they have been in practice. You should also do your own research. Client reviews are a great way to gauge how others feel about the lawyer you are considering. Also, check disciplinary history for the lawyer you are considering hiring. Make sure they have been licensed, uninterrupted, for a long enough time such that they can utilize their experience on your behalf.