So you think you might need to file for bankruptcy, but you’re unsure about how to go about doing so? The most important step is getting an appointment with and talking to an attorney. But how do you find the right attorney? That’s an important question that this article will hopefully answer. The bankruptcy attorney you choose can have a great impact on your future financial situation, so selecting the right one is very important. Choosing a bankruptcy attorney is nothing like filling up your car with gas, where you can find any gas station and receive the same product. Bankruptcy attorneys vary widely, in their skills and competency, the number of cases they handle, and their approach to individual cases. To find an attorney that is right for you, here are some sample questions you might want to ask when you go for an initial consultation.
“Will you be involved in the preparation of my bankruptcy documents, or will a staff member handle that?”
Most bankruptcy lawyers rely on staff to help gather information and prepare documents, but overreliance on staff should be a red flag. If at your first consultation you only briefly meet with your lawyer and are then shuffled off to meet with staff, you may not have that much interaction with that attorney going forward. And if a lawyer does not take the time to become familiar with your particular situation, you may not end up getting the best result.
“How long will it take before my case can be filed?”
If you are facing something urgent, like a foreclosure, vehicle repossession, or wage garnishment, let the attorney know right away. If you are up against a deadline, an emergency filing may be needed to stop a creditor’s action. Make sure the attorney has time to immediately devote to your case so that you can meet whatever deadline you are facing. If you aren’t in need of an emergency filing, I have found that it typically takes around three business days to get a case prepared for filing (once you have provided all of the information and documents needed to prepare the bankruptcy paperwork). Note that some cases are more complicated than others, and can take more time to prepare. If your attorney is telling you it could be weeks before the paperwork is complete and your case is ready to file, then that attorney might be overworked or have accepted too many cases to adequately handle.
“How many cases do you typically handle per month?”
Some bankruptcy lawyers file more cases than others. But just because a lawyer files more cases than another, that is not an indication of the lawyer’s quality. In fact, firms filing a large amount of cases each month can be what’s often called a “bankruptcy mill.” Often those firms heavily advertise, file a case or more per day, and rely primarily on paralegals and secretaries to do the work that a lawyer should be doing. Often you have little interaction with the lawyer or the ability to talk to them in depth, and you may show up to a meeting or hearing with little idea who your lawyer is (see the next question below). Your choice of a bankruptcy attorney should be about quality, not quantity, because you are relying on that person to set you on the right financial path for years to come.
“Will you be appearing for me at all required trustee meetings and court hearings?”
“Appearance counsel” is becoming more common nowadays. That means that someone other than the lawyer you hired appears on your behalf at a trustee meeting or court hearing. When this is going to happen, you should be told about it beforehand by the lawyer you hired so that you have the option of agreeing to it and being comfortable that appearance counsel will be actually be familiar with your case. Sometimes we see appearance counsel who know little about the people they are there to represent, which is never a good thing.
At the Schofield Law Firm, you will have personal interaction with Paul Schofield throughout the process, and he will be there to answer your questions and give you advice whenever you need it. Paul will never take on more cases than he can handle because he firmly believes that direct communication with his clients is essential to making sure your financial interests are protected, and part of his duty as a bankruptcy attorney. He will always be there for you at meetings and hearings. You will never be treated as a number, but as a person with unique desires who deserves the best possible representation. Call 912-275-7018 today to set up a free initial consultation.
June 17, 2021