Filing bankruptcy is a great choice in life. As I wrote in previous articles, it's not as scary as people assume. That said, it's important to choose a lawyer who knows what they're doing and who has a reputation for defending their clients.
You don't want to be stuck with someone who won't return your phone calls, is rude, or gets written off after they start taking your money.
Here are some tips for choosing a good bankruptcy lawyer.
1. You can find attorneys with expertise in bankruptcy by using NACBA's attorney search feature. NACBA is the National Association of Bankrupt Consumer Lawyers. The lawyers you find on this site have paid membership fees to the organization which I believe shows they are engaged in the business of bankruptcy. You want a lawyer who files for bankruptcy regularly, not once or twice a year.
2. Another good source is your local bar. Contact your local bar association and see if they have a referral service. Referral services generally require lawyers to have 5 years of experience in the field you are looking for. They also often require their attorneys to recommend that clients have taken continuing education courses in the area you are looking for.
3. Learn about the reputation of lawyers. If you don't know anyone who has used them, look online. Lawyers are rated by http://www.avvo.com. Although their methodology is not perfect, (eg you might have a great lawyer with 20 years of experience who has a rating of 7.0, on the other hand you might have one with 2 years of experience). experience with a 10.0.) I'm not sure how accurate the ratings are, but you can at least see if they have any reports of misconduct.
4. Access a free consultation. Most bankruptcy lawyers will give you 30 to 60 minutes of their time to determine if you are a good candidate for bankruptcy and to determine the complexity of your case. It really serves as an additional purpose of helping you determine if this is someone you would be comfortable working with. Some lawyers charge consultation fees. If this is the case with the lawyer you want to meet with, ask them if they apply these charges to the overall lawyer fees. Even though they charge extra for the consultation, it may be worth it if their reputation is great.
5. Ultimately, make the decision using all the information available to you. If they have been referred by a reputable source, if they have a good reputation and if the fees are okay with you, be confident in your choice to go ahead and provide your lawyer all the information requested. If you've done this, there's a good chance your case is going well.
Steven M. Palmer, Esq.
Licensed in WA and OH