With so many lawyers claiming to be bankruptcy attorneys, you need to ask the right questions to find the right attorney.
The following is not meant to be a complete and exhaustive list of every single issue that you need to consider when choosing a bankruptcy attorney. The following is just a short list of questions for you to think about:
Is the attorney unethical?
An attorney will probably not say “I am unethical!” However, you can look up an attorney at the website of the State Bar of California. www.calbar.ca.gov . You can see if the attorney has a public record of discipline. Never retain an attorney who has been disciplined for unethical conduct by the California State Bar Association.
Does the attorney have relevant experience?
If you were injured in a car accident, do you go to a divorce lawyer? Of course not. You would look for a good personal injury lawyer.
Likewise, if you need a lawyer because of financial problems and debt issues, you need a lawyer with bankruptcy experience.
Some lawyers will take advantage of a bad economy by suddenly becoming “bankruptcy attorneys” even though they have little experience with bankruptcy law. Question the attorney about his or her bankruptcy law experience, and carefully observe how the attorney answers your questions.
Who will handle your case?
Some attorneys don’t do their own work. Once you sign the legal services agreement and pay the retainer, the attorney hands over your file to an overworked and unsupervised assistant who does all the work under the attorney’s name.
There is nothing wrong with attorneys relying upon their staff for support, but the attorney is still responsible for your case. Question the attorney about who will actually work on your case. If the attorney relies upon staff for assistance, what does the attorney do to supervise the staff and to review your file?
When you file for bankruptcy, you have to sign a bankruptcy petition before the attorney can file the petition. When you sign the petition, will you be signing with an attorney who will review the petition with you?
Can you meet the attorney?
Developing a personal relationship with the attorney will be important to the outcome of your case. At some law offices, however, you don’t even meet the attorney. The office simply has an attorney’s name on it. So when you contact a law office to schedule an appointment, find out if your appointment will be with the attorney.
Do you get a consultation, or a sales pitch?
Filing for bankruptcy is not for everyone. You might have debts that a bankruptcy filing will not eliminate. You might have assets that you will lose in a Chapter 7 liquidation if you file a Chapter 7 case. Your income might be too high for a Chapter 7 case. You might have too much debt for a Chapter 13 case.
So when you question the attorney, does the attorney also question you? Does the attorney ask about your income, expenses, debts, and assets? Or does the attorney seem to be in a hurry to get you to sign up as a client and just hand over your money?