How To Pick The Right Bankruptcy Lawyer

10 Jun How To Pick The Right Bankruptcy Lawyer

Most of us have interviewed for jobs: as the interviewee, you come prepared to answer questions and make a pitch why you’re right for the job.

Pressure’s on the interviewee, to make the right impression, to get the important facts into the conversation, to project competence and confidence.

Turn the tables

How’d you like to be on the other side of the desk? You’re the interviewer when you set out to hire the right bankruptcy lawyer. The decision to hire or not is yours.

The only problem is that you know little or nothing about the legal field. Chances are that much of what you know about bankruptcy is wrong. And it’s your financial life we are talking about.

Lawyers are not interchangeable. One lawyer is not necessarily as good as another. Price is probably the poorest basis on which to choose an attorney.

Bankruptcy law is not about filling out forms. You do file forms in bankruptcy, but the job requires a lawyer because it is not obvious what information goes in those forms and what the implications of that information is to the conduct of the case.

You can fill out the form properly, and find that the Chapter 7 trustee is suing your mother for the money you repaid her before bankruptcy. Ouch!

While it’s not rocket science, it isn’t about the forms.

Just the facts

Here’s my checklist for evaluating a prospective bankruptcy lawyer.

  1. How much of the lawyer’s practice is bankruptcy cases for individuals?
  2. Does the lawyer ask about your goals in filing ?
  3. Do you get a chance to talk and are you really heard?
  4. Does the attorney explain your choices and the legal procedures in language you can understand?
  5. Are you comfortable asking questions and disclosing the difficult and messy situations in your financial life?
  6. Are you offered a written representation agreement that you can understand that tells you what services are included in the quoted fee?
  7. Do you get real, unhurried facetime with the lawyer, not staff?

Treat a first meeting with a bankruptcy attorney as an interview. You are making the hiring decision. Do not hesitate to leave the meeting without making a decision. Interview another prospect for contrast.

Like marriage, it’s a lot better to take your time entering into a relationship with a lawyer; it’s messy and unpleasant, and sometimes very costly, to part ways after you teamed up.

Image courtesy of mikecogh.

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Cathy Moran, Esq.

I'm a certified specialist in bankruptcy law (California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization) practicing in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than 30 years. In addition to practicing bankruptcy law, I train new practitioners at Bankruptcy Mastery.
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