Jan 14, 2022
There is no doubt that filing for bankruptcy can be scary and frustrating. To make it even worse, we have seen an increase in predatory creditors and scam artists who prey upon vulnerable consumers to take advantage of our nation's bankruptcy laws over the past decade. At the same time, many good and trustworthy lawyers continue to take on hundreds of clients desperate for help at prices that range from $600-$1000 just to file the case with limited benefits. The unfortunate reality is that there are so many so-called bankruptcy "experts" out there who will do virtually nothing for you or your money other than filling out some forms and sending them off to someone else who actually does all the work necessary to your Chapter 7 or 13 case. And somehow, the old adage "you get what you pay for" holds very true in this industry and applies to bankruptcy fees and results as well.
This article aims to provide those considering filing for bankruptcy with a guide on how to find a good bankruptcy attorney that will do all they promise and give you the results you need without ripping your off. This is not an easy task. There is no federal oversight over lawyers, but it is possible if you know where to look and take some time to check out different options.
While many firms are advertising on the Internet at steep discounts, these should be avoided as they typically consist of inexperienced attorneys or even scam artists trying to make a quick buck at your expense. When searching for an attorney, keep the following in mind:
Beware online ads that promise bankruptcy services for $200-$400 or fixed fees.
While it is possible to file even Chapter 13 cases for this price, you will only be wasting your money if all you receive are forms mailed off to another office where the actual casework gets done. Lawyers can do this because they take advantage of bankruptcy laws by outsourcing their filing fees, credit counseling, and debtor education classes to other companies that charge hundreds of dollars more than what the lawyer pays them. These companies then send consumers their bills directly after they complete these items for free on behalf of the attorney just to increase profits.
Are there discounts available?
While membership fee bankruptcy firms charge consumers discounted fees, it is important to realize that these are referral services where you give them your information. According to their agreement with these providers, they refer you to a local attorney. While the initial consultation may be free or low cost, expect all fees for legal work to be billed at full rates as most attorneys who join such programs do not agree to take on clients on a contingent basis. Furthermore, consider that lawyers typically receive lower quality cases from such firms because of random selection and inexperience, which means even more wasted time if the case does not qualify under current bankruptcy laws and must be refiled.
Is the lawyer experienced?
One of the best ways of telling if an attorney has experience is by looking at the results they have achieved for other clients. If possible, try to talk with such clients directly or look at their testimonials. You can also visit the websites of other bankruptcy attorneys who handle similar cases and see if there is a way to review these attorneys online.
Does the attorney specialize in Chapters 7s and 13s?
While all major metropolitan areas have listings of local attorneys that advertise bankruptcy services, you want to find one specializing in these types of cases. It will be more cost-effective and efficient than just filing general articles. It will also give you more options when it comes to having your case worked on by qualified professionals rather than less experienced lawyers looking for ways around the fee schedule set forth by law.
When finding a good bankruptcy attorney online, you mustn't get caught up in the advertising. There are many firms offering discounts on filing fees for Chapter 7 cases. Still, these are typically discount referencing service providers calling themselves "bankruptcy attorneys." Keep in mind that while these services can provide general information over the phone or through e-mail, they will not do the work for you and cannot give advice about how to proceed with your case under current bankruptcy laws. This means that what happens if your employer fires you after filing or they close their business? What if you were just given a raise? These are questions only real bankruptcy attorneys who specialize in this area of law can answer based on their experience.