The record numbers of bankruptcy filings in the past year have opened the doors for a whole slew of less than qualified "debt consultants" to take advantage of the situation. These people pray on people who are in desperate need of help and promise they can take care of everything. Many time these "consultants" make things worse than they were before. There have even been instances where the consultants have taken money upfront and left town the next day only to leave to people filing out several hundred, if not thousand, and still no where near getting out of debt.
Tip 1: Don't wait
A lot of times people are hesitant to admit that they need help. They put off going to an attorney until it is almost too late. Doing this does not give the attorney adequate time to prepare you case and file all the necessary paperwork to the courts. The best thing to do is when you think you might need to file a bankruptcy is to go see a bankruptcy attorney. This will make things go a whole lot smoother in the long run.
Tip 2: Ask around
A reference from someone who has gone through the whole process is usually the best place to start. However, many times you will not know too many people who have filed for bankruptcy. Using the Internet can be a good resource for referrals, but understand that Internet reviews are usually slanted. It is proven that people are more likely to post a bad review about a company than a good one. Keeping this in mind, unless they have a large amount of bad reviews across multiple sites an attorney with only one or two bad reviews might not be bad at all.
Tip 3: Go to court
Watching attorneys in action can give you a good idea of how they typically handle themselves in court. Spending an afternoon in bankruptcy court watching different attorneys will help you decide what type of attorney you want to represent you. This will also give you a chance to do some more asking around with various people who are going through the bankruptcy process and how they feel about their attorney. However, this is not a time to ask the attorneys questions. When they are in court they are busy preparing other clients cases and will only tell you to schedule a consultation. Remember time is money.
Tip 4: Schedule a consultation
When you have your choices narrowed down to a few attorneys it is time to schedule some consultations. Most attorneys will give you a free initial consultation to evaluate your case and to give you a chance to decide if you want to use them. When you call to schedule a meeting be sure to ask what to bring with you. This will make it easier for the attorney to evaluate your case.
When you show up to the attorneys office take a look around and see if the office is organized and runs like a well oiled machine, or just a hodgepodge of papers and files. An attorneys office is no place for chaos and you don't want them to misplace important documents for your case.
Remember, the consultation is a time for you to ask the attorney questions. You will not have much time to ask questions, about 10-15 minutes, so you need to make the most of your questions. The most important things to take from the consolation is what your role will be, how long the case should take, and about how much it will cost.
Tip 5: Do not confuse price with quality
Try not to base your decision solely on price. Try to find the best mix of price and quality that works for you. If you find that you will have a problems affording the right attorney ask them if you can set up a payment plan or if they have a free case application. Explain that you really want to use them, but considering the circumstances you might have trouble paying them on their schedule. Bankruptcy attorneys understand that you don't have a lot of cash on hand if you are already filing for bankruptcy and most try to work around this.
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