If you've made the decision to declare bankruptcy, you need to find a bankruptcy lawyer to handle the process for you, especially since the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act was put into place.
The bankruptcy law that was instituted in 2005 changes how different debts are handled. Under the new law, you will have to pass a "means test" to determine what type of bankruptcy you can file for. If your income is above the median income for your state, you won't qualify to have your debts canceled under a Chapter 7 filing. Instead, you will have to file for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, in which the debts will be restructured.
With both types of bankruptcy, you will be required to undergo credit counseling to help insure that you don't get yourself in trouble again. Because the new law makes it more complicated for consumers to file for bankruptcy, a qualified lawyer will be able to explain your options and handle the settlement process for you.
Before you choose someone to handle your case, it's a good idea to collect all your income and debt information to speed up the process. Once you've gathered all your financial data together, you can start looking for a lawyer to handle your case. You want to look for a certified specialist or a lawyer that has substantial experience in handling bankruptcy cases.
Finding a bankruptcy attorney takes some work and not every attorney is right for every client. To help you get started, these ideas can help point you in the right direction:
You may have noticed there is no mention about lawyers who advertise heavily on TV. These are generally law firms that file a large number of bankruptcy cases. Unfortunately, they don’t always provide the best service for their clients due to the large number of cases they handle. Basically, they are a “Bankruptcy Mill”. This type of business model uses a cookie-cutter approach to bankruptcy and generates profits through the sheer number of clients they bring in. And the low prices they quote generally only apply to the simplest of cases.
Once you’ve compiled a list of potential attorneys using the other methods, you can narrow it down by doing some internet research. Look for client reviews on Avvo.com, Martindale.com, Lawyers.com, as well as on Yelp and Google. It's also a good idea to check with your local bar association to see if they’ve had any disciplinary actions and check with the Better Business Bureau to see if they are an accredited bankruptcy lawyer.
Once you’ve identified the best candidates, you can call their office to set up an initial consultation. Some offer the initial consultation at no cost, while others will charge a minimal fee. It is during your initial consultation that you’ll be able to determine if they have the experience to help you, if you will feel comfortable working with this person, and how much the bankruptcy process will cost you.
Bankruptcy is a specialized area of law. You want to make sure the lawyers you meet with are experienced in bankruptcy law. Ask how long they have practiced and how many bankruptcy cases they have handled. It's also a good idea to ask how many bankruptcy cases they handle ease month. If it's over 30 a month, the lawyer may not be able to give your case the attention it deserves.
Find out if they are certified through the American Board of Certification. Not all bankruptcy attorneys are certified, but if the one you consult with is, it means they’re a specialist in their field.
You’ll also want to find out if they are licensed in your state and are familiar with the local court rules, judges and bankruptcy trustees. A good bankruptcy attorney will also be well-versed in the 2005 bankruptcy code changes and how it could impact your case.
Since so much of your financial life and circumstances are relevant to your bankruptcy case, you will need to be comfortable discussing these things with your lawyer. You want someone who will listen to the facts of your situation before advising you what to do. A good lawyer will be empathetic and willing to take the time to ask specific questions about your financial situation. Yes, it’s embarrassing. But they really need to know these things to give you the best representation.
You can learn a lot about how an attorney will work with you just by how they act during the initial consultation. You want someone who can describe the bankruptcy process in layman's terms to you, who is willing to listen to you and keep your best interests in mind.
And think about whether the attorney’s recommendations seem sound. If they don’t make sense to you, keep looking. Ultimately, you want to work with someone you feel comfortable around and who wants to help you make a fresh start.
If you’re considering filing for bankruptcy, you obviously are struggling financially. Attorney fees will depend on whether you’ll be filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is generally more complex and will cost more. Chapter 13 bankruptcy has guidelines in place that limit the amount that can be charged on a case.
With Chapter 7 bankruptcy filings, a client is required to pay the attorney up front. Otherwise, the legal fees would be discharged in the bankruptcy. For Chapter 13, some or all of your legal fees can be included in the debt repayment plan.
When meeting with potential attorneys, they should explain what the options are based on your circumstances. Generally, attorney fees for Chapter 7 filings can range from $500 to $3500 while attorney fees for Chapter 13 bankruptcy are typically $2500 to $6000 according to AllLaw.
Based on the type of bankruptcy they advise will in your best interest, you should then get a quote for their services. Also find out what their upfront fee will be.
Filing for bankruptcy is a serious step, one which requires sound advice and competent legal representation. Finding a really good bankruptcy attorney to represent you is like having a good friend guide you through the woods when you’re lost. Once you've found an attorney who possesses the best combination of experience, character and cost, you're set. Your next step will be to call their office to find out how to become their client.
If you want to learn more about bankruptcy and other ways to handle your debts, check out the following articles: