Finding a Quality Bankruptcy Attorney
If you’re a business owner, individual, or couple looking to file for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, or if you’re looking for a settlement solution, you’ve likely figured out why you need an attorney to help you on this journey.
The reasons are simple: you need someone who is well-versed in bankruptcy and debt settlement law; who has countless success stories of serving their clients’ needs; and – importantly – someone who is compassionate, understanding, and thorough as they walk you through this difficult time.
Otherwise, if you try to represent yourself – you run the risk of misinterpreting bankruptcy law, pouring time and money down the drain, and feeling isolated in this time of crisis. Having someone on your side to take the helm for you legally is beneficial when you work with the right firm.
To get the exceptional benefits of hiring a bankruptcy attorney, you have to make the correct selection first. Consider these tips for vetting an attorney.
How to Vet a Bankruptcy Attorney With These Two Important Questions
Most bankruptcy lawyers offer a free consultation to learn more about you, your needs, and your reasons for filing for bankruptcy. We should mention here that if the law office you’re working with doesn’t offer a free consultation, make another choice. This is an early way to separate the good from less-desirable attorneys.
Once you’re in the door at a free consultation, there are two questions you can ask that will help you know whether to keep looking or to partner with that particular lawyer.
1. Are You Knowledgeable about Our State’s Bankruptcy Laws, Including Exemptions? Further, How Will You Use This Knowledge to My Advantage?
This is an important first question to ask. Each state has its own bankruptcy laws, and if your attorney isn’t aware of how these laws can be used to your advantage as a client, you may want to look elsewhere. Let’s take Colorado, for example. Colorado allows you to keep specific property, such as personal property, motor vehicles, and even retirement accounts. If you file for bankruptcy with a spouse, these exemptions double.
Now, suppose your attorney was not aware of these exemptions. This would not work to your advantage, of course, and you’d be missing out on a crucial aspect of filing for bankruptcy: you don’t have to “lose everything” like some people expect, and – in fact – there are laws in place to protect you, even as you struggle financially.
Clients are often relieved when they find out that protections are in place for them and that the whole process feels much more manageable and far less stressful and shameful than some they imagine it will be. This brings up another point: if your bankruptcy attorney doesn’t make you feel hopeful about your future after bankruptcy, continue looking. You want to know that your legal representation has your best interests at heart, especially during this difficult time.
2. What Do Your Client Success Stories Look Like During the Time You’ve Been in Practice?
Anyone filing for bankruptcy is invested in what their future will look like after they’ve filed for bankruptcy. They wonder, “Will I ever be able to live a more financially-stable life?” or “Will I be able to get back on track with my credit score?” Another pressing, difficult question clients sometimes have is, “What will people think? How can I explain the positives of all this?” You might be thinking some of these very same things.
Filing for bankruptcy is a challenging experience for most people. As you can gather from the questions above, people are just looking for some hope that the process of filing is going to ultimately bring them to a better place. Most people filing for bankruptcy find themselves in a kind of limbo – a liminal, uncertain, half-way point between crisis and resolution. Therefore, you want to know for sure that this better place is possible by choosing a bankruptcy attorney who can assure you that you’ll get there.
Ask your attorney about their history of helping clients successfully navigate bankruptcy or debt settlement. Have them share some anecdotes about what happened, and what the outcomes were. See if the attorney you are vetting describes a depth of experience over a number of years.
There’s nothing wrong with an attorney who has less experience, especially if they seem hungry to develop an innovative strategy that can benefit you more than a more seasoned attorney might. At the same time, however, you want to ensure that the bankruptcy lawyer you’re working with has delivered outcomes that you hope will resemble yours.
Then, you can feel extremely hopeful that bankruptcy isn’t the end of your financial life, but a new, promising beginning.