If you ever find yourself needing legal representation in a bankruptcy case, don’t just look for a general practitioner. Find an attorney who specializes in bankruptcy cases. Bankruptcy can have a long-term and serious effect on your finances and even your life, so it pays to have a bankruptcy lawyer on your side.
Thing is not all bankruptcy attorneys can actually be counted on. There are those who might misrepresent themselves, mismanage cases, or prioritize their interests over yours. Some are simply not competent enough.
That’s why you need to take the time to search for a skilled bankruptcy attorney who will handle your case properly and deliver the most favorable results possible.
But where and how should you begin your search? Here are some suggestions you can try.
Seeking out referrals is a great way to start. Ask for recommendations from personal contacts who had a bankruptcy lawyer before and are happy and satisfied with the service they received. If you know someone in the same field, perhaps he or she can point you to bankruptcy lawyers in their professional network. Or if you once hired a lawyer on a non-bankruptcy case, you can get in touch with him or her again to see if he or she has a colleague whose expertise is bankruptcy.
County bar associations
Check out the county bar association in your area for a list of local bankruptcy attorneys. Most bar associations, however, don’t have a screening process in place. They will give you names, but you will have to do your own research on a prospect’s qualifications.
Group legal plans
Certain legal plans offer economical or free assistance with bankruptcy cases. As a member of such plans, you get access to bankruptcy specialists.
Usually sponsored by law schools, legal clinics offer free services—including advice on and assistance with bankruptcy cases—if you have low or moderate income.
If you know of a nearby legal aid office, drop by to find out if they can look into and handle your case. The Legal Services Corporation partially funds such offices. Not all of them, however, have bankruptcy specialists. Also, you can only qualify for free legal aid if you meet the office’s low-income requirement.
Go online and look up lists of bankruptcy attorneys, which are typically available on the websites of bar associations and private law firms. Such directories, or at least the good ones, are packed with information on the lawyer’s experience, credentials, philosophy and standard fee.
What to look for
Now that you know where to look, you need to know what makes a reliable bankruptcy lawyer. When reviewing and narrowing your options, check to see if he or she:
- Has many years of in-depth experience in practicing small business and consumer bankruptcy law
- Is reputable and has gained the respect of colleagues as well as trustees and judges
- Has attended educational seminars on bankruptcy law or is a member of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA), an organization focused on training attorneys to represent debtors well
- Offers a personalized approach to representing clients, one that is tailored to the specific facts of your bankruptcy case
- Offers a free consultation and assessment of your situation through a face-to-face meeting, where you can also ask about his or her professional background and knowledge and track record
- Charges reasonable rates, or fees that are commensurate with their credentials and experience
As soon as you find out that you need legal assistance, start your search for a skilled bankruptcy attorney and don’t make any other move until you find one. Looking for the right fit may take some effort, but having a competent and reliable lawyer can make a huge difference in the outcome of your case. And as with most things in life, it helps to trust your instincts. Work with an attorney who makes you feel at ease when it comes to communicating the details of your case.