5 Things to Look For When Selecting a Great Bankruptcy Attorney

Choosing a great bankruptcy attorney can be frustrating these days because it seems like almost every small law firm out there now advertises bankruptcy.  Like the real estate boom several years ago when every other lawyer was a real estate attorney, many novice attorneys are throwing their “lines” out there to see who they can reel in.  For those of us who have been practicing exclusively in bankruptcy (even when the economy was doing great)  we often see the train wreck of cases before us in court due to the fact that some poor soul just had an inexperienced attorney representing them.

So where do you find a great bankruptcy attorney?  Unlike most legal fields many people are hesitant to share with their friends and family that they have filed for bankruptcy protection.  Many people assume that they are the only ones at work or church going through financial hardships and are embarrassed or ashamed to ask for a referral.

That leaves many consumers searching for a bankruptcy attorney on the internet, the yellow pages, a catchy TV or radio ad, or responding to a direct mail letter.  I can tell you that the Atlanta market is extremely flooded with bankruptcy attorneys and for consumers it must be very confusing.

At the end of the day every bankruptcy attorney has their own style and personality that clicks for some clients and turns others aways.  With that said however I think it is always wise to consider the following when selecting a bankruptcy attorney:

1.  Size of the firm:  This is very important when selecting a law firm to represent you in this very personal matter.  If a firm is a filing over a hundred cases per MONTH it is going to be hard to provide personalized service to you as the client.  If you are dealing with a sole practitioner then you need to find out how many cases he or she handles per month to ensure that they can handle the cases load since they are alone in processing your case.  You have every right to demand personalized and responsive representation so do not settle for less.  It amazes me how many people relate their horrible experiences with attorneys but share that they thought that was how all attorneys treated their clients!  No one likes to be passed off to a paralegal or junior associate.  You should have your attorney’s email and direct phone number at the very LEAST when selecting representation.  If your potential attorney is not courteous and respectful to you during your consult then you need to RUN from that office.  You are reaching out for legal advice, not attitude.

2. Experience of the firm in bankruptcy law specifically:  I see ads every day for bankruptcy attorneys that say that a certain firm or attorney has 25 years experience.  What many of these ads don’t reflect are that these years of experience are in another field (mostly real estate these days…) unrelated to bankruptcy law.  Make sure to ask any potential attorney how many years that attorney has been practicing bankruptcy law because it matters!

3. Rating with the Better Business Bureau and State Bar of Georgia: Before ever stepping foot in an attorney’s office you need to go to http://www.gabar.org/membership/membersearch.cfm  to check to make sure that your attorney is in good standing with the bar.  I would also suggest checking your law firm out at the Batter Business Bureau (http://atlanta.bbb.org/Find-Business-Reviews/) to ensure that any potential firm is a member and therefore accountable to its clients to provide contracted services.

4. How were you treated when you came in to your consult?  When you came in to meet with your potential attorney were you greeted nicely or were you thrown a form on a clipboard and told to fill it out and wait with a herd of people in the waiting room?  Was the office neat and organized?  How long did you have to wait to meet with your attorney?  Did you meet with an attorney or a paralegal?  Did you get a high pressure pitch to file or were options presented in a stress free manner?  Did you feel rushed when you were in your appointment or did your attorney go over all question with you at the time?  These are all important things to consider.  Go with your gut feeling and if you don’t feel 150% comfortable with the law firm then go somewhere else!  It will be worth it in the long run.

5. How available will your attorney be to you?  This is vital to your stress level in your case.  For most of our clients this is the first time they have gone through this process and understandably they are going through a lot of emotions when they come to see us.  Some clients need more attention than others and that is ok.  Just make sure that you select and attorney who fits your personality and will be available to your when you have questions.  Asking for your attorney’s email and direct contact number should be given but some firms seem to block you at every turn when trying to reach a specify attorney.   Make sure you know who you will be working with on your case when you file.

If you are considering filing for bankruptcy the one good thing is that most of bankruptcy attorneys provide free consultations.  I encourage my clients to see at least 2 attorneys in the selection process to ensure that they pick the right firm for them.  Marketing campaigns are getting slicker and slicker by the day but there is still no substitute for competence and quality legal services.

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