When shopping around for an experienced legal professional to represent you on a matter as sensitive and exigent as your own bankruptcy, it’s critical to pick the right partner. As part of that, you will want to make sure you are prepared for a rigorous screening process.
Filing for bankruptcy is no simple matter, and it’s further complicated by its urgent nature. You may feel tempted to forego the usual due diligence and pick someone with the best price and a decent reputation, but it’s particularly important to be picky in this instance if you want to get out of this sticky situation with a chance at financially redeeming yourself in the future.
1. Do I Have Other Options? Why Not?
Most people tend to go consult a bankruptcy lawyer after they have exhausted most other potential avenues. And it’s likely that, when going to speak with a bankruptcy lawyer, it is within their best interest to sell you their services.
But a good bankruptcy lawyer will be able to help you understand exactly why you need their services. As well as why other options simply are no longer on the table, and what must change for them to have been on the table.
2. How Long Have You Been a Bankruptcy Lawyer?
The next thing you should do after gauging whether this is someone who is earnestly looking to help their clients. Or if they are someone who is just looking to pick up leads. You need to figure out just how experienced they are.
Be upfront with it and ask them how long they have been working in this particular area of the law. Also, how much of their practice is dedicated towards dealing with bankruptcy cases. There is no shame in wanting to know how much time your prospective bankruptcy lawyer spends working on bankruptcy cases.
3. Have You Worked on Similar Cases to Mine?
A better gauge of your potential bankruptcy lawyer’s ability to take on your case will be the amount of experience they have with cases of your nature. The nature of the law and the ways in which it may be interpreted means every case is a little different.
An experienced bankruptcy lawyer will have a track record of dealing with a number of similar cases, and a gauge for how well they can represent specific cases. It’s always a good sign when your lawyer can express confidence due to prior experience.
4. How Involved Are You Going to Be in My Case?
Like many other branches of the law, bankruptcy mills exist. Other law firms have many clients to work with. And they may farm some of their smaller ones out to be mostly handled by paralegals and assistants. If you want to make sure you’re going to be in the right hands, you will have to be upfront with it.
Make sure your documents aren’t simply being reviewed by interns or inexperienced lawyers. This is where smaller law firms can come into handy, as they provide bigger competition over large law firms for smaller cases by offering a more intimate defense.
5. What Will Be the Biggest Potential Challenge?
This is another opportunity for your lawyer to help enlighten you on the step-by-step process to tackling a bankruptcy. Regardless, of which kind of bankruptcy it will be, it gives them an opportunity to sell themselves and their services on their expertise and knowledge.
If you are worried about your bankruptcy – which is normal – then this is also an opportunity for you to determine what you should prepare yourself for. Also, what you should work towards, and which part of all of this is likely to be the hardest part emotionally and financially.
6. How Should We Communicate?
Some prefer by email, some prefer to make calls, and for others, certain parts of the process are best discussed in person. This is a good opportunity to help you determine just how often your lawyer will be in touch with you.
And whether they’re going to be reachable, or are likely to call at a reasonable time. It’s best to work out these details early on, so you can schedule around the bankruptcy process. Also, to make sure that it’s progressing as swiftly, efficiently, and smoothly as possible.
7. Do You Offer Any Post-Bankruptcy Support?
Some law firms offer a little additional support after the bankruptcy process is completed to help ensure that their former clients are ready to get back on their feet, retain (or regain) stability, and help them with some of the basics like budgeting and building a better credit score.
8. How Long Is This Going to Take?
A time frame is always good to have, but don’t expect anything too exact. An experienced bankruptcy lawyer will be able to tell you roughly how long the average process takes. And how long yours might take based on the details of the case, but your mileage may vary.
It also depends on how many cases your local court is going through, and the type of bankruptcy you opt for. Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases are typically shorter.
9. How Much Is All of This Going to Cost Me?
Financing is important, and something you want to be clear on as soon as possible. Ask your lawyer up front how much all of this is going to cost you, from the consultation to the court fees, as well as potential additional costs for things like lien avoidance.
If your bankruptcy is going to be preceded by audits and other processes, ask them about representation and what kind of billing you’re looking at. Your lawyer should inform you of what potential situations might call for extra time commitment on their part (and extra costs, in turn).
10. What’s Going to Happen in the End?
No lawyer worth their weight in salt will try to sell you on a prediction of the outcome of your case. They might make an educated guess. But if you’re faced with someone who promises a great outcome, turn the other way. Promises are never a good sign when dealing with legal matters, where small changes can completely change outcomes.
If you’re asking a legal professional to help you get a better picture of how the entire process is going to go and what’s likely to happen towards the end, expect to hear a detailed explanation of the step-by-step process. An explanation that gives you a greater understanding of what’s going on, and what you’re paying them for.
Do not be afraid to ask for a breakdown of the whole thing. And if you did not catch something, misunderstood, or plainly did not hear something, always ask. You don’t have to worry about looking thick in front of someone.
Because they have spent a better part of their life dedicating themselves to the law. They know more than you do. The lawyer expects you to want to be as informed as possible. They will gladly help you make heads or tails of the whole thing.