I've written a number of guides about all sorts of debt related issues but for some reason I've never written one about how to find a great bankruptcy attorney. So here goes.
Having lived through bankruptcy myself I am very familiar with what I felt when searching for a bankruptcy attorney. It's bad enough suffering in silence with debt but when the time comes for looking for a bankruptcy attorney, that can be a painful exercise. But with the information below, it doesn't have to be anymore.
Finding a great bankruptcy attorney is like finding a great proctologist. You never hunt for one unless you really, really need them. But here is what you should look for to find the best bankruptcy attorney to help you. Since I've never needed a proctologist yet we will have to wait for that guide.
For me, both as a consumer that needed a bankruptcy attorney and a consumer debt expert that has helped people to get out of debt since 1994, the primary factor I think you need to look for is just basic kindness and communication.
The most talented book smart bankruptcy attorney in the world is no good to anyone if they can't be open, available, and answer questions. But good attorneys are sometimes very busy so judging a great bankruptcy office begins first with the staff. If the staff isn't consistently friendly, compassionate, and kind, that's not a great sign. But you know, everyone has a bad day, so give them a second chance before you make your final judgment.
The best place to begin your hunt for a great bankruptcy attorney is to use the Bankruptcy Education Project online directory. These attorneys have been initially screened as bankruptcy attorneys who have expressed they care about consumers and want to do their best to help people.
If you can't find someone close to you then there is always the good old internet or that retro thing called the yellow pages.
I know you are feeling very trepidatious about calling a bankruptcy attorney, asking questions, and making an appointment but you really have nothing to fear. The bankruptcy attorney and their staff have heard every situation in the book and while your situation is unique to you, it is not unique to them.
Most bankruptcy attorneys offer free appointments. So after you've narrowed your search to that person you think will be best for you, go see them. There is no substitute for a face to face meeting.
In fact the bankruptcy attorney is someone you are hiring and paying for so your opinion and feelings about them matter.
You have nothing to fear about being open with your bankruptcy attorney. You should not feel ashamed or embarrassed in talking to them. They are not there to judge you and seeking the protection that bankruptcy afford you under the law is not a moral exercise. It is a process to find someone to represent you legally. Bankruptcy is a process, not a confession.
My advice about how to find the right office to help you is a bit like dating. You've got to trust your gut if this match is right for you.
If you call a bankruptcy office and they are not the best communicators or the friendliest to talk to, call another office. In fact you might want to contact several offices and see if you "connect" with them. Start you search there.
An exceptional bankruptcy attorney and bankruptcy office will make the process, easier, not harder. They will realize you are feeling stressed and apprehensive, as most people are in that situation, and make the process as painless as possible.
Filing bankruptcy is basically a process of gathering the facts and data and applying math, the law and court procedures to the situation to achieve the desired outcome.
Not every bankruptcy attorney is great. It's just like any other profession. There are lazy dentists. There are lazy bankruptcy attorneys.
One issue to watch out for is if the bankruptcy attorney just tries to push you into a chapter 13 bankruptcy because it is easier for them. Some do this because they don't want to spend the time qualifying you for a chapter 7 bankruptcy and some do it because they can wrap their bankruptcy fee up into a chapter 13 plan so they can sell a no money down bankruptcy filing. Either way it's just lazy.
People can often file a chapter 7 bankruptcy even if they make too much money to meet the income test. There are a number of factors that can be considered to help someone, even with substantially more income, to qualify for a chapter 7 bankruptcy. But qualifying someone for this takes time and effort on the part of the bankruptcy attorney.
While the bankruptcy fee must be paid first in order to file a chapter 7 bankruptcy, the biggest benefit of a chapter 7 bankruptcy is your debt is discharged in about 90 days and you get to learn from the experience you just lived through and move on with your life quickly. Most people pay the fee for the bankruptcy attorney by stopping making payments on their unsecured debt and saving up the money to file. Some attorneys will accept a few installment payments for a chapter 7 bankruptcy.
It's important to not select a bankruptcy attorney by shopping for the cheapest bankruptcy fee as your deciding factor. Exceptional customer service and kindness is worth whatever premium you can afford to pay.
If you are trying to deal with longer term obligations like a mortgage for a house you want to stay in or even sometimes student loans, a chapter 13 in that case might be a better solution.
It's perfectly okay to shop around for a great bankruptcy attorney. Filing bankruptcy is a big step in life and for the vast majority of people that file bankruptcy, something they will only do once in their lifetime.
By finding the best bankruptcy attorney for you it can minimize the stress, help you to be fully informed and understand the process along the way, and leave you understanding that bankruptcy is not the end of your life. It's just the beginning of the next chapter of bigger and better things to come.
A great bankruptcy attorney will help you to dispel the myths of bankruptcy and help you to understand you can easily and quickly rebuild your credit, you will be able to get credit again, you will be able to buy a house and get a job. Almost every single statement you hear that scares you about bankruptcy is just simply not true.
Get the facts about bankruptcy and file bankruptcy with a great bankruptcy attorney who you feel comfortable with and who treats you like a valued client.
Finding a great bankruptcy attorney to help you through this process is like having a good friend with you in a difficult time. Take the time to find a great bankruptcy attorney to help you and you will soon realize that your bankruptcy does not define you, it's just something you once had to do.
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