Many experienced and reputable bankruptcy attorneys offer a complimentary initial consultation, which is smart and sensible for two reasons.
The first reason is that it enables a prospective bankruptcy attorney to learn about the basics of your current financial situation (i.e. not drilling down into details), so that he or she can get a solid sense of whether entering into a relationship is in your best interest.
The second reason — and just as important — is that it gives you an opportunity to ask questions, so that you can determine if a prospective bankruptcy attorney is someone you should consider hiring.
However, because you have likely never consulted with a bankruptcy attorney — or if you have, it may have been many years ago, and the details of your financial scenario back then were very different than they are now — you may not know what to ask.
To help you in this area, and to make your due diligence process as efficient, focused and informative as possible, here are 4 essential questions to ask a prospective bankruptcy attorney:
1. How much experience do you have?
Every bankruptcy lawyer is going to have experience, and so asking “are you experienced?” will not provide you with any new information — or help you make the right decision. That is why you should ask about how much experience he or she has.
Why is the amount of experience so important? Because bankruptcy law is extremely complex, and you want to hire an attorney who has “been there and done that.” You want them to confidently and competently know what the future is going to look like, so they can be your sword and shield through this time — especially if any of your creditors try and break the rules (and some do), if the court-appointed trustee is not as skilled as he or she must be, or if the judge makes an error or renders a questionable decision that adversely impacts your case.
2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of filing for bankruptcy?
A professional and reputable bankruptcy attorney will be completely transparent about both the advantages of filing for bankruptcy. They will not exaggerate the pros and sugar-coat the cons.
Instead, they will be honest and frank, and equip you with objective information (which you can independently verify if you wish), so that you can make an educated decision on whether filing for bankruptcy at this time is in your best interest.
With this being said, keep in mind that during an initial consultation, a prospective bankruptcy attorney cannot provide you with legal counsel. As such, you should not expect them to analyze the details of your case, which would only happen after an agreement is made. However, you can and should inquire at a general level about how bankruptcy works, and what the known benefits (e.g. wiping out medical debt) and consequences (e.g. credit score hit) are.
3. What information do you need to start and how will we communicate?
The reason these two questions are integrated, is because it goes without saying that the bankruptcy attorney who you hire will need additional information from you down the road, such as bank statement, payment stubs, letters from creditors, and so on. As such, you not only want to know what kind of information you need to supply to get started with maximum efficiency, but you want to know what the communication process will be like.
Keep in mind that many of the country’s most effective bankruptcy attorneys use email as their primary method of client communication, because it is more efficient (which reduces client billing), and it also creates an easy-to-retrieve reference to avoid duplication or misunderstandings. This is quite helpful, especially for relatively minor updates.
Of course, your bankruptcy attorney should augment their email communication with phone and/or in-person communication, depending in the needs of your case, and your personal preferences.
4. Can you give me a general idea of how much this will cost?
It is impossible for a prospective bankruptcy attorney to give you a cost estimate without analyzing the details of your specific case. However, it is perfectly acceptable — and in fact, recommended — for you to ask about a general idea, such as a range, so that you can confirm whether it if financially feasible and sensible for you to pursue this option.
Also keep in mind that some costs related to bankruptcy are imposed by the court and the government, such as filing fees, credit counseling courses, and so on.
The Bottom Line
To learn more and have all of the above questions answered clearly and honestly, contact the Law Office of Charles H. Huber today. We have been helping individuals file consumer bankruptcy cases for more than 30 years. Our experience is your advantage!