Let’s face it – there are a lot of bankruptcy attorneys out there. Trying to find the right one can be a confusing and daunting process. Chances are, you have never looked for a bankruptcy attorney and are a bit unsure where to start. Below are some tips to consider when searching for a bankruptcy attorney that will meet your needs:
1) Were they referred to you by a friend, co-worker or family member? If so, this is a great way to get information about the lawyer. Ask your friend how their experience was. Were there any problems with the attorney, and/or their staff, or did their bankruptcy case proceed smoothly?
2) How long has the attorney been practicing? Bankruptcy is a serious financial decision. Although length of time practicing law doesn’t necessarily equate to how good an attorney is, you may not want an attorney right out of law school to handle your bankruptcy. Even a seasoned attorney may not be the best fit if they haven’t had experience handling bankruptcy law. You can always ask your attorney how many bankruptcy cases they have handled. If it is just a handful you may want to proceed with caution;
3) Does the attorney practice only bankruptcy, or all kinds of areas of the law? There are two types of attorneys – those who specialize, and those who generalize. Attorneys who generalize may practice multiple areas of the law. The attorneys who specialize only practice one, specific area of the law. For example, our firm had made the decision to practice only bankruptcy law. This means we aren’t trying to handle other cases, such as personal injury, employment law, family law, etc. We enjoy being able to practice only bankruptcy because it allow us the ability to focus on one thing and do it right. We aren’t distracted by a caseload of other work that takes away time from our bankruptcy clients. If our clients need help in other areas of the law we can refer them to another attorney who can help them;
4) Is there any online reviews, and feedback about the bankruptcy attorney? If so, do the reviews seem legitimate, and are they good?
5) When you met with the attorney, did they appear rushed, or distracted? You can learn a lot about an attorney by simply sitting down and discussing your case with them. Many bankruptcy attorneys offer a free initial consultation. Take advantage of this and see for yourself if the attorney seems competent with bankruptcy law, and is able to answer all of your questions and concerns. Then, ask yourself, “is this someone I would feel comfortable working with?”;
6) Does the attorney handle both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy? This is key. Even if you know you want to file a chapter 7 bankruptcy it is important for a bankruptcy attorney to understand chapter 13 as well in case your bankruptcy is converted by the Court, or if there is a reason that you need to switch your chapter 7 over to a chapter 13. Also, any good bankruptcy attorney should have experience in both chapters of bankruptcy to fully explain all of your bankruptcy options to you;
7) Was the attorney’s office staff helpful and friendly when you call their office? It may be concerning if you call an office to schedule an appointment with a bankruptcy attorney and feel rushed off the phone, or spoken down to. You will want a bankruptcy attorney and their staff to treat you and your situation with the respect and care you deserve;
8) Was the attorney’s office organized, or a cluttered mess? For me, I would want to hire an attorney who appears to have his office and files in order, rather than papers and files haphazardly placed everywhere. The last thing you want your bankruptcy attorney to do is mix up your paperwork with someone else, or lose important financial documents.
9) Is the bankruptcy attorney in good standing with the State Bar Association? Most states allow you to check this online through the State Bar Website. In Washington, you can check an attorney’s status here: Washington State Bar Attorney Directory. Here, you can search for the attorney by name and find out information like how long the attorney has been in practice, whether they are actively licensed, the area of law they practice, and whether they have had any disciplinary issues with the bar in the past. Generally, you can also find all of the attorney’s contact information here too.
The bottom line is that if you ever need to hire a bankruptcy attorney you want to make sure it is a good fit for you. You will want to feel comfortable working with the attorney, and also confident that they have the ability and skills to help you get the fresh start you need.