Do you feel like your debts are getting away from you? Are you overwhelmed and anxious about paying your bills? Do you need some relief from your creditors? Are you beginning to think that you should consider filing for bankruptcy?
There are many people in your situation who are just beginning to look into finding an attorney to help them with bankruptcy. Many of these people call with one question for me — “what’s your fee?” They’re not interested when I ask if they have any other questions about bankruptcy and how it works. They want the cheapest attorney, no matter what kind of representation they get.
Going through bankruptcy should not be the most traumatic event of your life, especially if you have an excellent attorney assisting you. However, there is more involved in bankruptcy than just having someone complete and file forms for you and then show up to the meeting with the trustee, which many times is what you get for your money when you hire the cheapest attorney you can find. Attorneys set their fees according to what they need to fairly compensate them for their time and effort while also looking at what the market is for their services. Let’s face it: an attorney must give their time and expertise. If the attorney fee doesn’t compensate her for the time, it takes to do a thorough job. Then she’s going to cut the times she spends on your case.
Bankruptcy is complex and complicated. It would be best if you had someone you feel comfortable and trust who makes herself available to answer your questions and address your concerns. In looking to hire a bankruptcy attorney, some suggest you schedule a consultation to explore whether this person will give you the representation you deserve. Here are some things that you should consider:
- You should feel at ease when speaking to the attorney. Many personal issues come up during a bankruptcy filing. If the attorney seems condescending to you and makes you nervous about asking questions, that should raise a serious negative in your mind. No questions are too insignificant for you to ask. Further, bankruptcy is complicated enough that you should not feel intimidated to ask the same question again if you forget what the attorney previously told you.
- You should be able to speak with the attorney when you first call her office to schedule an appointment. The attorney should be asking you a few preliminary questions and ask you to bring in some information that will help the discussion when you do meet for your consultation. If the attorney is too busy to talk with you when you first call and doesn’t return your call in a reasonable amount of time, that’s a good sign of how you will be treated when you phone later on as a client.
- You should be very concerned if your initial consultation is scheduled with someone other than the attorney you are considering hiring. This point may sound a little strange — however, in the current legal world, paralegals or assistants are often working up the bankruptcy cases rather than the attorney. I believe it’s important that you meet with the attorney herself, not her subordinate, before retaining her. The attorney has the specialized legal knowledge to get the best results for your bankruptcy case. The attorney must make crucial decisions, which should not be based on what an assistant relates to her after you leave.
- The bankruptcy attorney should be able to explain things in a way you can understand them. Even though filing for bankruptcy is complicated, it’s not so tricky that you must go through it without understanding what’s happening. It’s your life and your finances. You have an absolute right to know what’s happening in your case. At the very least, the attorney should explain the difference between the various chapters of bankruptcy and why one suits you better than the others. And you should understand the information required in the pleadings and how the Trustee will use that information in questioning you at your meeting with him.
- You should ensure that the attorney is licensed through the State of Ohio. You may also want to check whether they have pending bar complaints or malpractice claims. You should also question the attorney herself about how long she’s been practicing bankruptcy law, how many cases she’s handled, and whether most of her clients succeed in getting their bankruptcy discharges.
- At the end of that initial consultation, you should feel comfortable that the attorney is sincerely interested in your situation and in getting the best result for you through filing the bankruptcy. It would be best if you were assured that the attorney would protect your best interests and deal fairly with you in all aspects of your case. This should include alerting you to any issues she can foresee, including those that complicate the bankruptcy filing, and suggesting how the two of you will work through them. You should also sense that you are not being rushed through the appointment; instead, the attorney will take the time with you that you need.
You should leave that first meeting feeling like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders. If you don’t have that sense of relief for some reason, consider consulting with someone else before you hire anyone. And only then should the amount of the attorney fees enter into your consideration. Attorney fees for bankruptcy generally don’t vary much in the Dayton/Cincinnati areas. If it costs a couple more dollars to have an attorney dedicated to doing an excellent job for you and who cares about you, it could be the best couple of dollars you’ve spent in a long time!
If you have questions about what to look for when choosing a bankruptcy attorney, contact the experienced team at Horwitz & Horwitz today.