What to Look for in a Bankruptcy Lawyer

Admitting that your finances are messed up beyond repair and that it’s time to file for bankruptcy is one of the most difficult decisions you can make. Finding the right bankruptcy lawyer to help you through the process is one of the next most difficult decisions. That’s why Houston bankruptcy attorney Shaw Defense is offering these tips on what to look for in – and how to find – the best bankruptcy lawyer for your situation.

Why Should I Hire a Bankruptcy Lawyer?

If you’re looking at filing for bankruptcy, chances are good that your finances are so bad that you’re reluctant to spend money on a bankruptcy lawyer. It may be tempting to file for bankruptcy without a lawyer, but it’s more complicated than you would expect. Only people with the simplest bankruptcy cases (those who own no property of value, have no collateral, don’t have a mortgage, and don’t have a car loan) should consider filing for bankruptcy without a lawyer.

There are a lot of nuances to bankruptcy law and a lot of little details that can be missed if you try to do it alone. A bankruptcy lawyer will help you decide whether you should file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy (which eliminates most of your debt) or Chapter 13 (which restructures your debt repayments). They’ll also talk to your creditors and make sure you don’t forget anything since there are a lot of details to keep track of.

Check for Professionalism

Start your search by checking the website of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA). Bankruptcy lawyers who choose to be part of this organization are active in the legal community, are knowledgeable about changes in bankruptcy laws, and network with fellow bankruptcy lawyers.

Pick 5-10 lawyers from this list, then check your state’s bar website to ensure each lawyer is certified to practice bankruptcy law in your state, which often has higher requirements than just being a certified lawyer. As you start to call potential bankruptcy lawyers, ask if they are members of other professional organizations as well, because that shows dedication to their profession.

Schedule Consultations

Check the websites of the top few lawyers on your list. The website should have lots of information available with tools to help you decide if bankruptcy is the best choice for you and printable forms you can take to your consultation.

Consultations are a crucial part of the process of picking the best bankruptcy lawyer. As much as bankruptcy is a financial and legal process, it’s also extremely personal. You need to be comfortable sharing every last detail of your finances with your lawyer, so you want to find one you feel comfortable with.

Discuss Fees

Sadly, it does cost a fair amount of money to eliminate, reduce, or restructure your debt through bankruptcy. The court filing fee costs $310 for Chapter 13 and $335 for Chapter 7. Additionally, you are required to complete a credit counseling course that costs $25-50.

And then there are the lawyer’s fees. Fees vary greatly across the country but typically cost several thousand dollars. Make sure you find out exactly how much each lawyer charges, how and when they expect payment, and whether or not their fees cover court filing costs or additional costs.

Talk About All Your Options

A good bankruptcy lawyer won’t jump into pushing you toward bankruptcy without looking at your total situation. Your debt may not be high enough to justify the fees, you may lose more than you are willing to let go of, or there may be better ways to deal with your debt than bankruptcy. There’s also a big difference between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy, and your lawyer should make sure you understand the difference and help you make the best choice for your situation.

Stay Calm

While the process of going through a bankruptcy is extremely emotional, the choice of your bankruptcy lawyer should be made from a logical thought process. That could make the difference between dealing with indifferent paralegals or a compassionate solo lawyer.

Now that you know more about the process of finding a bankruptcy lawyer, you have the tools to make the best decision possible. As stressful as finding the right bankruptcy lawyer can be, it’s the first step toward reducing the massive amount of stress that your current financial situation is causing you. You’re on your way toward feeling a great weight lifted from your shoulders.

Melissa Thompson
Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn't know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.