Bankruptcy is a field where empathy and communication skills are as important as knowledge of the law.
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 lawyer with substantial experience in bankruptcy. If you are a large company, then also look for certified specialist.
A generalist (someone who does not focus on bankruptcy) is not able to do even a simple bankruptcy, unless they have good mentoring. It takes years to learn even the basics in bankruptcy because you have to know every area of law.
Interview lawyers until you find one who suits you. Ask about their experience with cases like yours. Ask how many cases he/she handles a year, and the length of time he/she has been practicing bankruptcy law.
Find someone with whom you communicate well.
Get agreement in writing
Understand what services are included in the quoted fee. Does it include
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.
Exploit 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.
“CHEAP” or “EASY” does not mean it is the best way to do something or to hire someone. You can take a shortcut to fix your roof, but it will still leak in a few months. The cost to fix something after it is done incorrectly is much more expensive than to do it correctly the first time.
Never choose a professional based solely in price because you will always find bad professionals willing to do a terrible job, but hope you are stupid enough not to realize the problems they are creating until it is too late. For instance, once the bankruptcy is filed it is probably too late to get out of it. Just like you should check out the licensing agencies for your contractor, doctor or plumber, you should also check out the State Bar for your prospective attorney. Also, look at reviews, but understand bad professionals will have fake reviews. I don’t say any of this to scare you, only to make sure you know the importance of taking your time to find good professionals.
Diane is a well respected Arizona bankruptcy and foreclosure attorney. As a retired law professor, she believes in offering everyone, not just her clients, advice about bankruptcy and Arizona foreclosure laws. Diane is also a mentor to hundreds of Arizona attorneys.
*Important Note from Diane: Everything on this web site is offered for educational purposes only and not intended to provide legal advice, nor create an attorney client relationship between you, me, or the author of any article. Information in this web site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from an attorney familiar with your personal circumstances and licensed to practice law in your state. Make sure to check out their reviews.*
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