How to Interview Your Bankruptcy Attorney

Posted by Terry Goddard | May 27, 2013 | 0 Comments

At this point you have made the decision to file for bankruptcy protection.  You have also made the decision to hire an experienced bankruptcy attorney to assist you with the filing.  Now the question is how to pick an attorney.  You will notice that the title of this post uses the term interview.  Anytime you decide to hire an attorney to do any kind of work for you keep in mind that you are interviewing that attorney for a job position with you, your legal adviser.  This is an important decision and you should take the time to carefully evaluate more than one candidate.

Now, as an attorney, I know I serve my clients with unmatched dedication and attention to their particular needs.  As a consequence, I do not think a potential client really needs to look any further than me.  That is not arrogant, it is recognition that I give everything I can to my clients.  Not all attorneys operate this way and that is why you need to interview more than one candidate and need to keep in mind that price is not the only factor.

The first thing to do is to review several bankruptcy attorney websites to get a feel for the bankruptcy attorneys in your area.  Disregard any attorney who is not offering a free initial consultation.  In this day and age a bankruptcy attorney who does not offer a free initial consultation is most likely not worth your time.  The days of charging clients for an initial consultation are gone and there is no reason for you to pay for an initial consultation.

Next, call three or four attorneys who you have reviewed that appear to have a strong base of knowledge in bankruptcy and who focus their practice almost exclusively on bankruptcy.  Before you actually go to your appointment sit down and think about your goals in your bankruptcy case, your concerns about bankruptcy, and any questions you have about the process.  As you interview the prospective attorney ask the attorney about his experience, how many bankruptcy cases the attorney handled, how long has the attorney been practicing bankruptcy, and will the attorney complete the filing or hand your case off to a paralegal to complete.  In terms of specific case issues ask the attorney if there appear to be any case issues, how best to handle your secured debt, are there any debts that will not be discharged, do you have any assets that are not exempt, if you have non-exempt assets what is the best way to handle that with the Trustee, and how quickly you need to file and whether the attorney can file your case that quickly.

As the prospective attorney answers these questions take note of how well the attorney answers these questions.  Do you feel confident in the answers you are getting?  A great deal of this process is the development of trust between attorney and client.  Do you trust the attorney you are talking to?  Do the answers give you confidence in the attorney?  If not, you probably want to consider another attorney.

As I said, this process is about trust.  If you trust the attorney you are talking to then that attorney may be your bankruptcy attorney.  I certainly hope that bankruptcy attorney is me.  Next week I will discuss how much you can expect to spend on a Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy case.

About the Author

Terry Goddard

Terry L. Goddard Jr. heads the firm's consumer and small business bankruptcy group in both the Baltimore and Southern Maryland offices of Skeen & Kauffman LLP. Terry has over six years of bankruptcy experience assisting clients navigate the complex and intimidating filing for protection under Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 of the bankruptcy code. Terry has been a practicing attorney since 2002.


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