Shopping for Bankruptcy Lawyers? Six Things Not To Do!

21 May Shopping for Bankruptcy Lawyers? Six Things Not To Do!

Honore Daumier's Three Lawyers

Honore Daumier’s Three Lawyers

Looking for a bankruptcy lawyer is no fun. No one likes even talking about bankruptcy and now you have to go lay it all out — with a lawyer, no less. We know. I’ve said before we’re like a financial VD clinic. We have seen it all.

But there are some things you shouldn’t do when talking to a bankruptcy lawyer. Not if you want things to go well.

(1) Don’t hold back on anything. Anything. Not telling your lawyer something means they can’t help you — and their work could hurt more than help. The thing you really don’t want to talk about? That’s the first thing you should bring up, not the last.

(2) Answer all the questions bluntly and honestly. You can’t possibly tell an experienced bankruptcy lawyer something he has not heard before. The horrible, the mundane, the silly, the scary, the dumb — it all washes up on our desks eventually. The only way to fix it is to get it out there so the lawyer can figure out a solution.

(3) Your friends are really horrible lawyers. A lot of folks talk to their friends — or chats on the web — about these problems eventually. And they often get advice about how bankruptcy really works. They’re wrong. They may be wrong a little or they may be wrong on a “we should discuss a plea bargain with the prosecutor” scale, but I promise they’re wrong.

(4) Don’t shop the truth. If one lawyer tells you a specific issue is a big deal for you and a potential problem, don’t change the facts with another lawyer to get what you want to hear. Facts are facts. Lawyers may disagree about how to deal with an issue, that’s not unusual. But if you’re looking for a second opinion then focus on the real facts and don’t be shy in telling the story and why you are talking to them.

(5) Don’t take advantage of new lawyers. Some new lawyers are very talented and/or working with experienced practitioners. But others are keeping their rates low and sticking to simple cases. If you’ve talked to other lawyers and been told you have a more complicated problem — but you don’t want to follow their advice — don’t hire an inexperienced lawyer for your case and fail to mention the issue spotted by the other lawyers. You’re trying to get yourself — and the young lawyer — into trouble, even if all you think you’re doing is looking for the best deal. Wishing does not make a complex problem into an easy one.

(6) You don’t know your case is complicated. OK, maybe you do. But there’s a good chance you don’t. How you got into trouble and what you want may be very simple. How you get there may be quite complicated. It’s like talking to a doctor. You may have a persistent headache and you want it to stop. But the doctor doesn’t know from your description if you simply need aspirin — or brain surgery. And if he can’t be sure, then how can you be?

Every lawyer has a mental list of things like this they wish everyone would remember when they come to the office. We all dread the end of the consultation when the husband whispers to his wife, “Should I tell him about my …..” and she shakes her head.

The answer is YES, you should tell me. You probably should have told me an hour ago when we started talking but, please, tell me now! I’m going to be tinkering with your financial life, why would you hold back?

Art Credit: Google Art Project

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I have been a bankruptcy attorney since 1989. Our firm represents consumers filing bankruptcy almost exclusively, although I have represented bankruptcy trustees as well as creditors. For 2017-2019 I served on the American Bankruptcy Institute's Commission on Consumer Bankruptcy. Our Report recommended numerous changes to improve bankruptcy law to make it serve everyone in the process more effectively. If you live in Eastern Missouri, visit our website, send an e-mail or give us a call (314) 781-3400. Our website:

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