25 Jan How To Talk To A (Bankruptcy) Lawyer
Talking to a lawyer is rarely fun. Having to talk to a bankruptcy lawyer seems down right scary or painful. So if you have debt problems and need to see us, try to get the most out of it.
Every Lawyer Has A Process.
Like anyone else who has been doing a job a long time, most of us have a process we follow in collecting information and explaining bankruptcy to folks. Usually that process is there to make sure we catch all the crucial issues that could make your life miserable so bear with us. We’re really not trying to drive you crazy with “irrelevant” questions or changes in topic, we’re just filling in blanks in the mosaic so we can help you better.
So for example if the lawyer wants you to fill out some intake paperwork, try to be thorough. If he wants you to hold off on questions until he runs through all his standard questions, try to be patient. You want him to do a good job for you, so let him use the process that works best to get you that quality product, right?
Everyone Has Secrets. Everyone Is A Little Embarrassed.
No one is thrilled that lawyers ask so many nosy, prying questions. But here’s the thing — He’s the only one who will be on your side, when the chips are down. You need to share with him like he’s your oldest friend that you would trust with your life. Because he might save your financial life. So when he asks a question you think sounds like something you’d really rather not talk about, swallow hard and just tell him.
That One Little Detail You’re Holding Back? Spill It. Please!
The single most common lawyer frustration is getting all the way through a consultation and, on the way out the door, have the new client mention “I don’t know if this really matters but….” Sometimes it turns out to be nothing. Usually it is the one thing that completely changes everything we planned to do for you. It’s like spending an hour detailing your new car only to have it splashed with mud as you pull out of the driveway.
Truly, if there’s something you’re afraid to tell us about because you’ve heard or read it could turn out to be a problem, swallow hard (again) and tell us early. If it is a big deal, it is a big deal, whether you tell us or not. But if we don’t know, we are just spectators in your disaster-to-come. (By the way, often it’s not a big deal too.)
You Have No Idea What We’re Talking About Sometimes.
When you go to law school, they take your brain and wash it thoroughly. We tend to think and speak differently than when we went in. But we live inside our own heads and mostly deal with other legal pros. So we speak legalese at normal people and get blank stares back — because your brain didn’t get the law school rinse cycle. It’s so common we often don’t even notice.
So let me apologize for that. And beg you to please try to point out what you don’t understand. Good lawyers will try to translate into non-lawyer if you speak up. If they can’t or won’t, then this lawyer may not be a good fit for you. Either way, it’s your case.
You’re Considering Other Options.
People like to avoid bankruptcy if they can. We get that. So you’re thinking about other tools to fix your debt besides bankruptcy. Speak up, talk to us about them.
Seriously. Experienced bankruptcy folks know what the options are, good and bad. I’m happy to tell you if what you’re thinking of doing is a good idea or bad idea. And probably tell you things you hadn’t considered (usually we meet folks only after being hurt in some bad alternative strategy). Sometimes we can at least warn you off from some real frauds and scams as well.
The Lawyer’s Staff Are Part Of The Lawyer.
Non-lawyers aren’t supposed to provide legal advice. But they often carry out a lot of tasks for the lawyer and, if the lawyer is any good, his staff is like his right hand. Dealing with the staff is dealing with the lawyer. In many cases, it’s also easier because they don’t speak legalese as much and the staff are easier to connect with quickly. So use them too.
Don’t Put It Off Any Longer.
If you think you need to talk to one of us, procrastination doesn’t make the situation easier. Even if you think you have a non-bankruptcy solution, it pays to know all your choices as soon as possible.
You know that deep down. It is a hard call to make. But staying in (or regaining) control of your financial life means action — not reaction.
And if you talked to a lawyer but are putting off going ahead with the case, you could end up defeating the strategy the lawyer had to help you. As facts change in the real world, your options change — and often get worse. Legal advice can be like milk — it doesn’t age well.
Art credit: J.M. Staniforth cartoon, circa 1899.
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