Filing for bankruptcy is a huge step that usually takes a lot of thought and planning. There are many emotions associated with bankruptcy, and there's no right or wrong way to feel. Once you've made the decision to file for bankruptcy, the next step is finding an experienced bankruptcy attorney.
Not all bankruptcy attorneys are created equal. Some have many years of experience. Some are relatively new to the field. Some have larger firms, while others have smaller firms. Bankruptcy attorneys come in all shapes and sizes, and there's no "one size fits all" solution that will work for everyone. Choosing a bankruptcy attorney is all about what's best for you. But how do you go about figuring that out? Here are three tips that will help you choose the right bankruptcy attorney:
Do Your Homework
It's okay to start with Google or the Yellow Pages, but it's important that you do more research than that. Use Google to help you put together of bankruptcy attorneys in your area, then go to each attorney's website to do your research. Look for their years of practice, testimonials, and office location. Also, look and see if the Attorney is Board Certified in Consumer Bankruptcy. It's also important to look for other information that's not bankruptcy related. How are they considered in the community? Do they give back? Sometimes, you'll meet with an attorney and find out that bankruptcy isn't the right solution for you. If this is the case, you'll want an attorney that can map out the best possible strategy for your situation. So you need to ask for other strategies to narrow down whether bankruptcy is the best course of action for you, or if there is another solution to your situation.
However, the best way to find a bankruptcy attorney is by referral. Ask your friends, family, bankers, other lawyers, and accountants who the best bankruptcy attorney in your area is. Ask people you trust, chances are they either know a good bankruptcy attorney or have heard of one. Don't be afraid to ask around, read testimonials from prior clients and listen to what people have to say about different bankruptcy attorneys in your area.
Meet With More Than One Attorney
Once you've done your research, received referrals and narrowed down your list, you'll want to meet with the attorneys. Many bankruptcy attorneys offer a free initial consultation, and it's important that you take advantage of this option. Don't be afraid to meet with more than one attorney in order to find the right attorney for you. Although this may take some time, it's in your best interest to seek out the advice of an experienced bankruptcy attorney and to find someone you can trust. Your bankruptcy will take anywhere from six months to five years, and you want an attorney that you can see yourself working with for an extended period of time. It's important that you have a strong and trusting relationship with the bankruptcy attorney you choose.
Evaluate Your Experience
After your free consultation, think about the experience and how it made you feel. When you made the phone call to schedule your consultation, was the receptionist polite? Did they attempt to set an appointment that was convenient for you and the attorney? Did the attorney answer all of your questions? Did they send you a free consultation questionnaire to complete before your appointment? The first impression with a law firm is just as important as the initial consultation.
Next, think about how you were treated during your consultation. Were you offered anything to drink and given a comfortable place to wait? Was your attorney on time? Did everyone at the office treat you with respect? Did the attorney take his or her time answering all of your questions?
After you've asked yourself these questions, choosing the right bankruptcy attorney comes down to intuition. There's no attorney that's going to be the perfect fit for everyone. Trust your gut and the experiences you had before, during and after your consultation.
Remember: don't feel pressured to sign a contract immediately. Filing for bankruptcy is a huge step for anyone, and you want to make sure that you have the right bankruptcy attorney guiding you through it.