The first step in choosing a bankruptcy lawyer is recognizing that your financial situation is driving you to find one. Bankruptcy law is complicated and has many technical requirements best overseen by a lawyer and not by debtors representing themselves. Not handling these requirements correctly can leave a debtor worse off after bankruptcy than before. Bankruptcy lawyers need not be overwhelmingly expensive, and using a lawyer can save you money and property in the long run.
Where Do I Start
You can, of course, begin by searching the internet. Bankruptcy lawyer’s websites are easy to find. However, you may find it more helpful to talk to friends, colleagues, and relatives. Anyone you know who has gone through or thought about going through the bankruptcy process can share their lawyer experiences with you. This strategy does require admitting that you may be under financial stress, but who isn’t in the COVID-19 world? You may even know lawyers in other fields who can suggest colleagues that practice bankruptcy law. Another helpful resource is reading online reviews. This can be a vital way to see what other people in your situation have felt about a particular attorney’s representation.
Then, after you have a list of a few names, go to sites like the American Bar Association or the Legal Services Corporation websites, as well as the federal courts and various attorney rating services. These resources can help you determine the professional reputation of the attorney or firm you are considering using. State and local bar associations can also provide useful information about who concentrates their practice in bankruptcy. You may also want to check the membership roster of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys or look to see whether your candidates are members of the American Bankruptcy Institute or hold a certification from them.
Use an Experienced Professional
While there are some certifications in bankruptcy law, most lawyers do not seek formal certification in their practices. Some attorney rating sites allow selection by the rating (e.g., number of stars given) in a particular practice. But, just like on sites like Amazon, not all reviews are disinterested. Don’t let that be your only criterion. Instead, look at the experience and concentration in the practice of the lawyers you are proposing using.
Bankruptcy is a complicated and highly technical area of the law. Although you can file bankruptcy on your own (acting pro se), this can be a huge mistake. The potential for problems arising out of missed deadlines or mistakes in paperwork can be significant and can even leave you, in the end, worse off than when you started. You’ll be far better off with a skilled and knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney to guide you through the process and make sure everything is completed timely and correctly.
Talk to the Attorney
Most attorneys will provide a free initial consultation on your case. At my law office, I give out my cell phone to everyone so that if you have questions about your situation, you can reach me directly. Being available for my clients is my highest priority because I understand that filing for bankruptcy can be stressful. Being around to take your questions can help ease that stress.