Nobody wants to think about bankruptcy, but in these economic times, it may be a necessity for many. Although it may be painful to have to file for bankruptcy, but choosing the wrong attorney can make it even worse. The following are some tips on what to look and what to avoid when choosing a bankruptcy attorney.
Stay Away from Storefront Operations
If bankruptcy is imminent, then time is of the essence. Avoid the fly by night operations that advertise bankruptcy services at ridiculously low prices. Not only are these places likely to mishandle a bankruptcy, but added fees and services will make it much more costly than originally advertised. Look for a legitimate attorney that has years of experience in the field. It will be more expensive, but the bankruptcy will be properly filed and handled, which will save money, not to mention headaches in the long run.
As with choosing a doctor, a good bankruptcy attorney should be licensed by the state bar. If they are not, then they are not authorized to practice law in that state. The state bar can provide licensing information, as well as any disciplinary action regarding an attorney.
Check with Agencies
There are agencies and organizations that have either worked with bankruptcy attorneys, or have knowledge of their experience. The American Bankruptcy Institute is a good place to start. The ABI is an organization the even Congress taps for their expertise. They may have information, or even members that are available for bankruptcy proceedings. Members of the ABI have had to meet additional standards beyond what the average bankruptcy attorney has met.
Local legal aid organizations may be able to assist in finding a good attorney as well. In all likelihood they have worked with bankruptcy attorneys in the past and may be able to recommend someone suitable for a particular case.
Visit Different Attorneys
Many attorneys offer free or low-cost initial consultations. This is an opportunity to talk to the prospective attorney and assess if they are the right one for the job. Have a list of questions ready to ask the prospective attorney. Here are a few standard questions for any bankruptcy attorney. These certainly are not the only questions a bankruptcy attorney should be asked, they are a good starting point.
1. How many bankruptcies do you handle in a year? Will you have ample time for my case?
2. Will I be working with the attorney or an office paralegal most of the time? How much access will I have?
3. What is the process exactly?
4. How long will the process take?
Most attorneys will be happy to answer these questions. Those that will not, or give evasive answers are most likely too busy or inexperienced, and another attorney should be interviewed.
Bankruptcy is an unpleasant experience, but a good attorney can help mitigate some of the pain. Remember, many bankruptcies are little more than a restructuring, so it is not necessarily the end of the world. A poor attorney can make it seem that way though. Do the research, find a good attorney, and stay on top of the proceedings. Even the best attorneys can miss something, such as leaving out a particular creditor, so stay involved and request updates frequently. Working interactively with a good attorney will make the process go as smoothly as possible.
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