Tips for finding a bankruptcy attorney.
Written by Kristin Turner, Harvard Law Grad.
Updated November 25, 2020
When you are struggling with debt, you may consider contacting a bankruptcy attorney for help. A bankruptcy attorney will guide you through the process of filing for debt relief and provide legal advice regarding aspects of filing a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy case.
Choosing a bankruptcy attorney that is right for you is especially important. However, many people have never spoken to an attorney much less a bankruptcy lawyer. So, here are some tips for what to look for when searching for a bankruptcy attorney.
Begin by Researching Trusted Websites for a Bankruptcy Attorney in Your Area
Several websites can help you locate a bankruptcy attorney in your area. In addition to checking with your state's Bar Association, you can also check with the American Bar Association and the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys for a bankruptcy attorney in your area.
However, it's important to remember that even though an attorney may be listed with an organization, you still need to do your own research. Being a member of an organization demonstrates the attorney has met the standards for membership, but it doesn't guarantee quality or expertise.
Most consumer bankruptcy attorneys offer a free consultation. You'll want to meet with several attorneys to compare fees, ask questions, and determine who makes you feel most at ease.
Ask Friends, Family Members & Co-Workers for References
It can be difficult to talk about bankruptcy with the people in your life. However, if someone has been through the bankruptcy process, they can probably offer important information about the quality of the attorney they used to file the bankruptcy case.
Checking references provided by a bankruptcy attorney or reading reviews on a bankruptcy attorney website is helpful, too. However, an attorney is not going to include anyone as a reference other than clients who are willing to provide positive references.
When you meet with your attorney for a consultation, you want to assess key issues including:
Are you going to feel comfortable working with this person? Do you believe the attorney is going to respond to you appropriately and provide personal service?
Does the attorney fee seem appropriate for the services included? What services are not included in the attorney fee? Is this attorney charging fees close to the fees charged by other attorneys for filing bankruptcy cases in your area?
What bankruptcy-related experience does the attorney have and how long has he been practicing bankruptcy law?
Let’s look at each of the three issues in closer detail to help you choose the right bankruptcy attorney for you.
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Your Relationship with Your Bankruptcy Attorney
You need to make sure that you're comfortable being open with your attorney before you hire the attorney. An attorney can't do their job unless you're honest. Ask yourself, "do I feel like I can tell them anything without feeling embarrassed or condemned?"
Be incredibly cautious of hiring a bankruptcy attorney who works for a “bankruptcy mill.”
Bankruptcy mills quickly move hundreds of cases through their office and very seldom provide the personal service or the attention you need. Many of the attorneys who work for these firms are wonderful attorneys, but the firm simply overloads the attorneys with too many cases.
Most bankruptcy attorneys are dedicated individuals who want to help people who are in financial trouble. Search for an attorney who listens to your concerns, answers your questions and is available when you need the attorney.
Bankruptcy Attorney Fees
There is no “set” fee that a bankruptcy attorney charges for services. However, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case typically costs more than a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case. In addition to fees varying from attorney to attorney in your area, fees vary from state to state.
As you compare fees as you search for a bankruptcy attorney, you need to remember that attorneys may include or exclude certain services from the initial attorney fee. You want a bankruptcy attorney that includes as many services as possible in the initial fee.
Some of the typical services included in the fee for a bankruptcy attorney are:
Analyzing your financial situation and providing advice
Preparing all bankruptcy forms for filing
Attending the 341 Meeting of Creditors
A bankruptcy attorney may charge an additional fee for filing motions, amendments, and attending some hearings. Make sure you have a clear understanding of the services included and excluded before you hire a bankruptcy attorney.
If you're are unable to afford to pay a bankruptcy attorney, we may be able to help you. At Upsolve, a non-profit organization, we assist low-income individuals file for debt relief under Chapter 7 at no cost.
What Experience Does the Bankruptcy Attorney Have That Benefits You?
Bankruptcy law can be very complex. Most attorneys do not handle bankruptcy cases, unless they practice specifically in bankruptcy law.
Therefore, you want to choose a bankruptcy attorney with a deep knowledge of bankruptcy laws, bankruptcy rules, and bankruptcy procedures. When you consult with a bankruptcy attorney, you need to ask the attorney about his background and any specialized training he has in bankruptcy-related matters.
Also, the attorney should be willing to discuss bankruptcy alternatives. You want a bankruptcy attorney who does not push you toward filing a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy case without exploring all available debt relief options.
A bankruptcy attorney should be willing to answer your questions and explore all options thoroughly before advising you about your best option to get out of debt.
Can I File a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case Without a Bankruptcy Attorney?
Yes, you can file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy without an attorney. If you can afford to retain an attorney, you may want to do so because a bankruptcy attorney can provide support and guidance. However, if you are unable to pay an attorney, you can still get the debt relief you need.
Upsolve, a Harvard Law School-grown nonprofit company, has developed a free filing tool to assist individuals in preparing their bankruptcy forms. We understand that some people may not be able to afford to pay a bankruptcy attorney, but they desperately need bankruptcy relief.
Therefore, we have developed a system to assist low-income Americans as they work to get rid of debt through a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case. Our system provides step-by-step guidance for completing and filing the Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms that are required to obtain a bankruptcy discharge.
Are You Ready to Get Out of Debt?
Watch past users explain how they worked with Upsolve to get a fresh start so that they could move forward without the burden of debt. They were in debt and under water when they contacted our organization. We worked with them to successfully file Chapter 7 and obtain a bankruptcy discharge.
- American Bankruptcy Institute. (2002). Bankruptcy by the Numbers - Chapter 7 Asset Cases. ABI Journal. Retrieved August 4, 2020, from https://www.abi.org/abi-journal/chapter-7-asset-cases