Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What should you look for in a bankruptcy attorney?

When selecting a bankruptcy attorney, not all are equal. The costs especially can be very different. Look for an attorney who discloses all of their fees and costs upfront. Some attorneys will not disclose their costs and fees on their website, but when you go in for a consultation you will find out they are much higher than the competition. Most attorneys advertise a "flat fee," but does that flat fee include phone calls, emails, copying, court appearances, initial consultation? I do not charge extra for phone calls, emails, copies, appearing at the 341 Meeting of the Creditors, and consultations. Some attorneys advertise a flat fee but reserve the right in certain circumstances to charge extra. One large law firm in town advertises $995 for Chapter 7, but when you go in for a consultation, informs you that it is only if you are on assisted living. I charge $995 for every Chapter 7, regardless of your situation. The only extra costs you should see with me are the two mandatory courses you must take, which can be found online for as inexpensively as $5 and $12.50.

Some bankruptcy attorneys advertise generous payment plans, like "no money required up front" and "payment plans available." I also offer that, but I would not characterize it as such. Here is why: Let's say you need to file bankruptcy ASAP, in like two days, in order to avoid foreclosure on your home or garnishment of your paycheck. You will need to pay your attorney the filing fee ($308 for Chapter 7) and the bankruptcy fee BEFORE filing, otherwise you sort of become a creditor in the bankruptcy. I do not know of any attorneys who will let you pay after you file. So the "payment plan" and "no money down" is really not much of anything, you need to come up with the full amount in two days. Of course, if you're not in any hurry to file, you can just sit around and come up with the money gradually.

Finally, check out your bankruptcy attorney thoroughly. How many years have they been practicing law? What law school did they attend? This information should be disclosed on their website. You can look that information up on the Arizona State Bar website at myazbar.org. You can look up the ranking of their law school at the US News & World Report's website.


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