David M. Siegel
Finding The Right Bankruptcy Attorney
There are many bankruptcy attorneys in every major city in small towns that can help you with either a Chapter 7 fresh start bankruptcy or a Chapter 13 reorganization under the bankruptcy code. The issue for you is finding the right attorney in terms of experience, knowledge, compassion and price. I say price but realistically and honestly, that is the last consideration that you should really weigh in terms of who you hire. The difference in price is probably not going to be great, probably less than $300-$500 between the top attorney and the average attorney.
What you really want to focus on is attorney experience. How many cases has that attorney filed or handled in his or her career? How many cases are they handling right now? Are they going to bankruptcy court every day? Have they dealt with the trustees and that local area? Are they familiar with the judges and the local rules? Are they willing to give you names of individuals or are they willing to show you testimonials from prior clients who have had success? You really want to do your homework and make sure you are not filing with someone who has very little in the way of experience. Although most attorneys can navigate through the bankruptcy process and fill out the right forms and obtain the right software, it’s the advice before filing which is most critical that is not something that you are going to be able to determine unless you are looking at an experienced bankruptcy attorney.
For example, if you recently used your credit cards, maybe you made a $1500 cash advance, maybe you purchased jewelry for $1500 and you went to your attorney and you said I haven’t really use the cards recently or I use them recently but for nothing major, the attorney might file your case too soon and you might wind up having to pay back that $1500. An experienced attorney will wait until certain time frames and deadlines have passed before pulling the trigger on a filing.
An experienced bankruptcy attorney will make sure that they file the right paperwork in terms of keeping your vehicle. Under the state of Illinois, if you don’t reaffirm the vehicle, then that vehicle can be repossessed after your cases over even if you are current. You also must take a two-hour financial management class after the cases filed but prior to your case being discharged. If you fail to take that class, your case will complete without a discharge. What that means is you went through the whole process and you didn’t get the debt relief that you hired the attorney to achieve.
Certain law firms stay on top of all these issues and plenty more. Other law firms simply take your money for a fee, prepare the paperwork, have you sign it, appear in court and don’t really understand all the ins and outs of bankruptcy in all the ways that you could be harmed if you don’t do the right thing. So the experienced lawyer is a lawyer that you should be seeking. That lawyer should be knowledgeable with the automatic stay, with the financial management class, when is the appropriate time to file either a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 and what debts typically are not going to be eliminated in which debts are going to be eliminated. Having an experienced bankruptcy attorney on your side is going to make the case so much smoother for you than to have somebody who doesn’t really know what they’re doing and then you are rolling the dice.
So the most important thing that you should look for in an attorney is experience and then see if you have a meeting of the minds in terms of personalities, if you feel that person can represent you and communicate with you and if you feel comfortable with that person. The very last consideration is price. You are only going to file bankruptcy once. If you want it done right in the experienced attorney is a little bit more money, I suggest you go with the experienced attorney and you’ll have a pleasant bankruptcy experience.