When I had a cavity last year I was struck by a distressing thought: not only did I not have a good dentist, I didn’t have one at all. And so began a quest that took me from website to website, friend to relative, neighbors and colleagues in a quest for the right dentist.
It took awhile, but I finally found an awesome dentist.
And as I sat in the chair, my mind clouded with nitrous oxide to help me get through a particularly painful procedure, I wondered how someone would go about finding a good bankruptcy lawyer. After all, it’s not as if most people have one on speed dial (at least, I hope not).
So how would a consumer with bill problems go about the process of finding someone who is not only a good lawyer but also a good fit to help out? After the nitrous haze cleared, I settled on these 5 steps:
Begin With Google. Start out by searching for consumer bankruptcy lawyers in your area. Weed out the directories for now, though; you’re looking for names, addresses and the like.
Who’s Committed? Look for bankruptcy lawyers who are members of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys. This doesn’t mean that the lawyer is good, but it does serve as an indicator of whether he or she is serious enough to commit some money to being educated about the field. The American Board of Certification administers an exam that lawyers can take to demonstrate their expertise in, among other things, consumer bankruptcy law. Of course, a specialist may not be certified for one reason or another; though it’s improper for a lawyer to be a “specialist” unless he or she is certified as such, look for someone who concentrates in the field.
Ditch The Myopics. When all you’ve got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. So, too, with lawyers. Not every potential client is a candidate for bankruptcy, which is why you want to check out the lawyer’s track record. Does he or she belong to any professional organizations that deal with personal financial issues and/or consumer protection law? Does he or she write on topics concerning personal finance or consumer protection? After all, you’re looking for a professional who can assess your situation honestly and completely.
Sniff Around. There are so many places to find an honest assessment of the bankruptcy lawyers on your short-list, and you should look into all of them before making a decision. Check Avvo, Yelp, and run the lawyer’s name through Google to get a sense of what others in your community think. If someone’s got a pile of awful reviews then it may be best to go elsewhere.
Interview Candidates. You wouldn’t expect an employer to hire the first job applicant, would you? Same thing goes for people looking to hire a lawyer. Sit down with a few attorneys to see if your personalities mesh. After all, this lawyer is going to be your partner in making some big financial changes.
As you can imagine, this process will likely take a bit of time and effort on your part. But remember that this is a big decision in your life; having the right professional to help will mean the difference between success and failure.
Image credit: brillisbeasty/Flickr
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Last modified: March 7, 2011