Filing a bankruptcy is a big life choice. As I have written in previous posts it is not nearly as scary as people assume it to be. That said, it is important to choose an attorney who knows what they are doing and who has a reputation for good client advocacy.
You don’t want to get stuck with someone who won’t return your phone calls, is rude, or who gets disbarred after they start taking your money.
What follows are some tips for choosing a good bankruptcy attorney.
1. You can find attorneys with bankruptcy expertise by using the attorney finder function of NACBA. NACBA is the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys. Attorneys that you find on this site have paid dues to the organization which I believe shows that they are committed to the bankruptcy field. You want an attorney who files bankruptcies regularly, not once or twice a year.
2. Another good source is your local bar association. Contact your local bar association and see if they have a referral service. Referral services generally require attorneys to have 5 years of experience in the field you are looking into. They also often require that their attorneys they refer clients to have completed continuing education courses in the field you are looking for.
3. Ask around about the attorneys reputation. If you do not know anyone who has used them, look online. Attorneys are rated by http://www.avvo.com. While their methodology may not be perfect, (for example, you might have a great attorney with 20 years experience who has a rating of 7.0, on the other hand you might have one with 2 years experience with a 10.0.) I am not sure how accurate the ratings are, but you can at least see if they have any reports of misconduct.
4. Go to a free consultation. Most bankruptcy attorneys will offer you 30-60 minutes of their time to figure out if you are a good candidate for bankruptcy and to determine how complex your case is. This really serves an additional purpose of helping you to determine if it is someone you would be comfortable working with. Some attorneys do charge a consultation fee. If this is the case with the attorney you want to meet ask them if they apply that fee to the overall attorney’s fee. Even if they do charge an additional fee for the consult, it may be worth it if their reputation is sterling.
5. Ultimately, make the decision using all the information at your disposal. If they were referred by a reputable source, if they have a good reputation, and if the fee is something you are comfortable paying, be confident in your choice to go forward and provide your attorney all of the information that ask for. If you have done this, chances are your case will go smooth.
Best of Luck,
Steven M. Palmer, Esq.
Licensed in WA and OH