If you are being hounded by creditors on a daily basis and feel more and more closed in upon, bankruptcy may be an option worth considering. However, if you panic and choose a bankruptcy attorney based purely on price or an ad you see on television or the Internet, you could be in store for a great deal of long-term frustration. Take a breath and make your choice a wise one.
Get it in Writing
Make sure that you know exactly what your bankruptcy attorney will do for you before signing any sort of representation agreement. If you're going through Chapter 7 liquidation or Chapter 13 personal reorganization, the agreement will more than likely be reliably standard. You still need to make sure, however, that the agreement includes services such as consultations, analysis of your finances, petition preparation and client review, follow-ups with creditors, and representation at any hearings.
There is a possibility that any flat fee you may pay will not include representation should a creditor challenge your filing, so make sure you know up front what sort of charges will be associated with this type of service. The chances are low this sort of event will take place, but the last thing you need is any surprises.
Do not Let Price Be Your Sole Determination Factor
If you choose a lawyer based only on price, you could have made a very bad mistake. Be wary if you see pricing that is much lower than what other lawyers in your area charge. This could be a sign that the representative will cut corners on your case or does not even concentrate in this area of practice. Most reputable lawyers will not discuss fees over the phone without first providing you with a comprehensive consultation discussing all aspects of your case.
Make Sure Your Specific Needs Are Addressed
Sometimes, a bankruptcy attorney will take a churn and burn approach. They are more concerned with volume than providing quality representation, so they'll work as quickly as possible to get through as many cases as possible. These types of lawyers do not take the time to meet a client's specific needs, and in many instances, their work is suspect at best.
It can be very difficult for a non-lawyer to know when he or she is dealing with one of these kinds of firms. One good way of avoiding this is by calling your area bar association and seeing if you can get recommendations on a reliable lawyer.
Whatever you do, make sure that you take your time and that you are completely comfortable with your bankruptcy attorney. Performing some due diligence before you commit to a lawyer can pay substantive benefits in the long term.