It can be daunting to think about hiring a bankruptcy attorney. You will be sharing intimate details of your financial situation and you want to know that the professional you choose will treat your case with sensitivity and care. Bankruptcy is a specialized area of law and the right lawyer can make all the difference in a successful outcome for your bankruptcy filing.
The most important step is to find and vet a potential attorney. You can do this by asking friends and family for recommendations and searching online resources like the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA). If you have any doubts about an attorney or his firm, trust your instincts and move on to another candidate.
During the initial consultation, you should consider an attorney’s experience and track record of successfully handling bankruptcy cases. It is also important that the attorney you choose be familiar with the local laws and court procedures of your filing locale. For example, a trustee assigned to your case may interview you under oath about your finances, and failure to provide accurate and truthful answers can lead to criminal prosecution for fraud and perjury. A lawyer who practices local bankruptcy law is most likely to be familiar with these issues.
You should also make sure that the attorney you choose is a certified bankruptcy specialist in your state. This is a designation that indicates that the attorney has met a rigorous and specific training requirement, including significant experience handling bankruptcy cases. A lawyer who is certified is often the best choice for your particular circumstances, and you can verify that a lawyer is certified by consulting with the state bar association’s website.
In addition to ensuring that the attorney you hire is qualified for your specific needs, you should also assess whether or not you have a good rapport with him or her. The attorney you choose will be handling what can be a very emotional and stressful situation for you, and it is critical that you feel comfortable with the person representing you.
Finally, you should steer clear of so-called “bankruptcy mills,” which handle large numbers of bankruptcy cases without focusing on each client’s individual needs. You should also avoid “petition preparers,” which are not attorneys and simply fill out the bankruptcy paperwork for you; they cannot offer legal advice or shepherd you through the process. You should be able to get a sense of an attorney’s commitment to attentiveness and personal service during your initial meeting. Be wary of any attorney who treats you with disdain or seems distracted during your first interaction. The decision to seek help with your debt is a big one, but choosing the right lawyer can save you considerable time and hassle in the long run. Make the most of your time by finding and vetting potential candidates, then interviewing them to find the best fit for your needs. The result will be a smoother and less stressful bankruptcy filing.