Debtors will often turn to bankruptcy attorneys based on a modicum of information. They feel the overwhelming sense of urgency, and so they make the terrible decision to base their choice of lawyer on price, on an ad, or — even worse — on nothing at all. What they don’t realize is that not all bankruptcy lawyers are the same. Choosing the right professional can mean the difference between eventually getting back on their feet or financial ruin.
If you’re facing bankruptcy and feel like there’s nowhere to turn, definitely consider getting a lawyer. To help you make sure you’re getting the right one, though, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
1. Watch Out For the Bankruptcy Mill.
One of the most common mistakes people might unknowingly make is to take their business to a bankruptcy mill, which is a firm that churns and burns cases with little regard for their clients’ specific needs. These firms infamously produce shoddy legal work, unhappy clients, and often wind up raising judges’ and trustees’ suspicions.
It can be difficult for any non-professional to spot a bankruptcy mill, but a good way is to first check with a local bar association. There are also other red flags that you can watch for, too. For example, if you don’t meet an actual lawyer in the initial consultation, then you may be working with a mill. Another indicator is to ask how many cases a bankruptcy attorney will handle at any given time. If the answer is more than 30, then you’re definitely dealing with a mill.
2. Work With Someone Experienced.
Technically speaking, any attorney can handle a bankruptcy case. Practically speaking, only those who typically hand such cases are the ones worth working with. However, rather than looking at the length of the attorney’s careers as an indicator of expertise, you want to look at what percentage of the lawyer’s practice constitutes bankruptcy, and how many cases they’ve handled.
3. You Get What You Pay For.
While you definitely want to work with someone you can afford, keep in mind that you get the service that you pay for. Money is at the root of this particular problem, but working with a bankruptcy attorney who’s less than an expert could wind up costing you even more than what you would’ve paid working with a more experienced lawyer. Most lawyers use a fairly standard agreement for the common types of bankruptcy, which charges a flat fee and includes consultations, analysis, preparation, document review, meeting attendance, and follow-ups. The key is to make sure that these services are spelled out in the representation agreement.
Following these tips could mean the difference between financial hope or despair. If you have any questions about finding a good bankruptcy attorney, feel free to ask in the comments.