04 Jun How To Be A Good Bankruptcy Client
Much has been written about what potential debtors should look for in a bankruptcy lawyer. Well, it is a two-way street and bankruptcy lawyers will also be sizing you up to determine if you will be a good bankruptcy client. Remember, both the lawyer and the client have the shared goals of getting you through the bankruptcy process successfully and with a minimum of fuss. As such you, as the client, will have some responsibilities for your case as well.
So, what makes a good client? Number One–listen to your lawyer and do what he or she says. You would think that since you are paying for your lawyer’s advice and assistance in handling your bankruptcy case, you would follow your attorney’s directions. If you have sought out reputable and competent counsel, there should not be any question about following your attorney’s advice. Most likely, your lawyer has been involved in many more bankruptcy cases than you have.
Number Two–read the materials that your attorney provides to you. As with most bankruptcy attorney offices, different clients will often ask the same questions concerning the process. That is understandable–most of my clients have never filed for bankruptcy. Yet,the attorney or staff mayhave answered that same question hundreds of times. The answer does not change. As such, the attorney can provide the appropriate information (and answer your question) in a handout for you to read at your leisure. Of course, if you do not read the information, you may be missing out on something very important that can adversely impact your case.
As an example, in chapter 7 cases, it is mandatory that the debtor complete a Personal Financial Management course and file a certificate before a discharge is entered. This is true in every chapter 7 case. If you don’t do the PFM course, your case will be closed without a discharge. We have this requirement in multiple handouts and we tell our clients of this requirement. Failure to comply with this requirement will mean that you incur additional legal fees and costs (the cost to re-open your bankruptcy case is $260.00). Read what your lawyer provides to you!
Number 3–Stay in contact with your attorney’s office. This is obvious but unfortunately clients will sometimes change their phone numbers; move or just not have a way for the attorney to contact them. Your lawyer needs to have a way to get in contact with you. Things may come up in your case that requires your input. If you are not available, it can materially affect your case. For example, if the trustee wants certain documents in your case, you need to provide them to the trustee. If you are unavailable, the trustee may decide that you are stonewalling or have something to hide. Your case could rapidly go downhill.
Number 4–Get requested information to your lawyer as quickly as possible. Bankruptcy involves a lot of information that is your personal information. Your attorney cannot get this information unless you provide it. In order to get your case done as quickly and expeditiously as possible, get the requested information to your attorney as quickly as possible.
Number 5–Ask questions. If you feel like you do not understand what is being requested of you in terms of information needed, ask questions. As your lawyer, we are invested in getting your case to a discharge as quickly and efficiently as you are. If you need an explanation as to what is needed, just ask. We will be happy to explain.
A bankruptcy case is a joint effort between you and your attorney. With due apologies to Jerry Maguire, help your attorney to help you and do what is requested.
Adrian Lapas, Esq.
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