Filing for bankruptcy can offer a lot of much-needed relief, but the legal process is complicated and can be confusing at times. That’s why it’s highly recommended to work with a bankruptcy lawyer who can help you throughout the entire bankruptcy process from filling out your papers and filing your petition to preparing for your 341 meeting and onward.
The lawyer you choose can make a big difference in your bankruptcy experience, so this decision shouldn’t be taken lightly. In this guide, we offer suggestions for how to find the best bankruptcy lawyer for you.
The first step in finding a bankruptcy lawyer is understanding how you will evaluate the lawyers you consider. It’s ultimately a very personal decision how you choose a lawyer, but below are some considerations we’d recommend taking into account.
One of the most important factors in which bankruptcy lawyer you choose is their experience. You want to work with somebody who has worked on many bankruptcy cases before. You may even prefer to work with a lawyer who exclusively practices bankruptcy law.
If you’re looking for a more personal experience with a lot of close contact, you’ll probably want to work with a lawyer from a smaller firm. But if you want more resources and experience, a bigger firm might be a better option.
A big factor in a successful client/lawyer relationship is just that: the relationship. Try to meet with each lawyer you’re considering to determine how they treat you, how well you communicate, and how comfortable you feel with them.
If you’re filing for bankruptcy, you’re probably pretty cost-conscious. It may be a deciding factor for you how much any potential lawyer is planning to charge for their services.
Unfortunately, there are lawyers out there who try to take advantage of people filing for bankruptcy by going through an extremely high volume of cases and offering poor service. Below are some signs that the lawyer you’re working with may not be entirely trustworthy.
Bankruptcy case mills have a lot of clients - more than they can properly manage - so they often arrive at meetings or hearings unprepared. They may also fail to file documents in a timely fashion.
If the lawyer you’re considering spends a lot of money on advertising, it may be because their word-of-mouth reputation isn’t too great. If an ad for a bankruptcy lawyer looks sketchy, it might just be true.
Because of their high client volume, bankruptcy mill lawyers can’t be in very much contact with each of their clients. If it seems like you’ll be interacting with secretaries and other non-lawyer support staff more than an actual attorney, it might be a red flag.
If the lawyer you’re talking to files dozens or even hundreds of bankruptcy cases each month, it might be a sign that they’re a bankruptcy mill.
Once you know what you want - and don’t want - in a lawyer, your next step is to find local lawyers you can potentially work with. A good process is to go through the following resources and compile a list of lawyers that seem like a good option. Once you have a list, you can contact lawyers one by one and try to set up a consultation meeting. In this meeting, you’ll have an opportunity to ask questions and get a first impression that will help you choose the lawyer you’ll ultimately want to work with.
Here are some places you can look to find bankruptcy lawyers in your area.
Word-of-mouth referrals are always a good place to start, as you’ll be able to get an honest opinion from a person you trust. If anybody in your life has filed for bankruptcy with the help of a bankruptcy lawyer, start by talking to them and seeing if they might be able to recommend somebody. Alternatively, they might be able to warn you about somebody they had a bad experience with, which is equally valuable.
Your local bar association should have a list of names of bankruptcy attorneys who practice in your area. Because this is a raw list that is not vetted, it’ll be your responsibility to check the credentials and experience of the attorneys the bar refers you to.
It is, after all, the Internet age, and there’s no denying that online is one of the best places to find any type of service provider - including a bankruptcy lawyer. You can start by running a simple Google search for the keyword “bankruptcy lawyer ___(your city name)___.” Alternatively, you can check online lawyer directories like The National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys directory or Attorney at Law’s directory.
If you’re looking for more affordable bankruptcy lawyer options, it can be a good idea to check with local legal clinics. It’s common practice for law schools to sponsor legal clinics that provide free legal aid to low-income consumers. A Google search or a browse of your local law school’s website should be able to help you find if this kind of resource is available to you. Note that each legal clinic has its own requirements for the type of clients that they are willing to take on, so it’s important to check with the clinic directly to see if they are available to take on your case.