If there’s anything worse than filing for bankruptcy, it’s having to do so and then hiring the wrong attorney for the job. For many lawyers, bankruptcy filings have become a volume business, and debtors facing bankruptcy sometimes unfortunately obtain inferior legal services. For this reason, you’ll need to do some research before hiring a bankruptcy lawyer.
Here are 10 tips to help you find the best attorney to handle your bankruptcy filing:
- Don’t procrastinate. The idea of hiring a bankruptcy attorney has all the allure of having teeth pulled. But don’t let this prevent you from beginning your investigation for a good lawyer as soon as you know you’re going to need one. Waiting until the last moment won’t give a good attorney enough time to adequately prepare your case.
- Seek the advice of other legal professionals. Ask yourself which business acquaintances you know, who might in turn know a good bankruptcy lawyer. If you have a personal attorney, that’s a good place to start. Understand, however, that bankruptcy law is a specialty. If your lawyer offers to handle the case as part of your usual retainer, be certain he knows his way around bankruptcy court.
- Spend a day at bankruptcy court. Observing bankruptcy attorneys in action might give you an idea of the type of lawyer you want representing you. At the court you can also find out which local attorneys specialize in this form of law.
- Find out who sits on your local bankruptcy court panels. The only lawyers you’ll find on this panel will be well-respected attorneys who regularly appear in bankruptcy court. Also, get the names of lawyers on the local bankruptcy court’s debtor or creditor committees. People on these committees do it to attract business, but they also take their work seriously.
- Visit law offices. An office appraisal can give you vital clues as to how a lawyer would handle your case. Look around the office and see how well organized it is. Is it neat, or are there coffee-stained folders strewn about the floor? You wouldn’t go to a doctor with a dirty examining room; don’t hire a lawyer with a disorganized office.
- Ask lots of questions. Once you have some candidates in mind, ask them the following questions (The answers to each of these questions are critical, so if you get evasive answers, it’s probably a red flag that this is not the firm for you):
- What certifications do you have?
- How many bankruptcies have you handled?
- How many do you handle in a month or year?
- Of those, how many are business filings?
- How much access will I have to you during my filing?
- If I’m not working directly with you, who will I be working with?
- Can I interview the person with whom I would be working?
- What time frame do you have for this bankruptcy?
- How will the procedure work?