How Can I Afford to Pay My Bankruptcy Attorney?

19 Aug How Can I Afford to Pay My Bankruptcy Attorney?

“How do you get paid?” is the question I’m asked most often at parties. After all, they say, if your clients don’t have any money, how can they pay you?

The answer depends on the details of a particular client’s case, but there are several ways I usually get paid.

1. You may have savings you haven’t used to pay bills, particularly if you contact me early enough in the process.

2. You can borrow money from your 401(k) or other retirement plan. I generally don’t recommend this, since you may end up owing taxes on the money you take out.

3. You can receive a gift from friends or family for some or all of the fees. (A pre-filing loan for fees is discharged by the successful completion of a bankruptcy. This doesn’t discharge the moral obligation, of course, and many clients will pay back those who helped them file even if there is no legal obligation to do so.)

4. Because I generally recommend that you stop paying credit cards, personal loans, and other general unsecured debt once you have decided to file, you may be able to use the money you save to pay me.

5. In a Chapter 13, you can use the money you would otherwise use for a mortgage payment to pay me, with the missed payment made up through your Chapter 13 Plan.

6. We can set up a payment plan.

I have also worked out other fee arrangements with clients. For several, I agreed to represent them for no up front money, receiving payment after I settled their personal injury lawsuits. If you refer a new client to me, I may reduce your fee. And some people, I do not charge at all (pro bono) or charge a greatly reduced fee (low bono). If you’re active duty military, I usually charge a reduced fee.

Talk with your attorney. You may be able to find ways to work things out in a way that benefits both of you.

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Brett Weiss, a senior partner at Chung & Press, LLC, represents people and businesses in all phases of bankruptcy. He has experience in complex individual Chapter 7, Chapter 11 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases, and in Chapter 11 small business restructuring and reorganization. Mr. Weiss lectures nationally on bankruptcy issues. He has testified before the Federal Bankruptcy Rules Committee, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and has twice testified before Congress on bankruptcy and credit issues. Brett Weiss is the co-author of Chapter 11 for Individual Debtors, and has written Not Dead Yet: Bankruptcy After BAPCPA, for the Maryland Bar Journal, as well as hundreds of blogs for the Bankruptcy Law Network. With his law partner, he recorded a 13-hour basic bankruptcy training series, and leads intensive three-day Chapter 11 training boot camps. Mr. Weiss has received international media attention in connection with his work. He was interviewed by Barbara Walters on The View, has appeared on the Today Show, Good Morning America, ABC News with Peter Jennings, the Montel Williams Show, National Public Radio, AARP-TV, the BBC World Service, German state television, and numerous local radio and television programs, and been quoted in Money magazine, The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun, among others. Brett Weiss is the Maryland State Chair for the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, a founding member of the Bankruptcy Law Network, on the board of the Maryland State Bar Consumer Bankruptcy Council, and a member of the American Bankruptcy Institute, the Bankruptcy Bar Association of Maryland, and the Civil Justice Network. He has been recognized as a “Super Lawyer” every year since 2007 for Maryland and the District of Columbia, and in 2011 received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys for his work on behalf of consumers across the country. Mr. Weiss is admitted to practice before Maryland and District of Columbia federal and state courts, the United States Courts of Appeals for the DC, Fourth and Eighth Circuits, The United States Tax Court, and the Supreme Court of the United States, and has been practicing law since 1983.
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