How Do I Choose a Bankruptcy Lawyer?

The current economic crisis has prompted the emergence of a swarm of new practitioners holding themselves out as “financial experts.” (Note: This is also applicable to ex-realtors and ex-loan brokers who have now re-invented themselves as “loan modification experts.” There is no such thing.)

Many are practitioners from areas that have declined, such as real estate or immigration, and are looking to make a dollar quickly without having taken the time to develop genuine expertise. Many also are great marketers. You will see their faces and message everywhere.

To make a good choice, you’ll only need to scratch the veneer and look for substance below the surface. Fortunately, it’s not hard. They’re just some things you can’t fake.

Here are some rules you can use to choose a good attorney:

  • Ask the lawyer about his or her experience. Experience. You can’t learn it out of book. There’s only one way to get it: You have to have been there and done that (if I may coin a phrase). In any area of human endeavor, experience matters. Only experience will give the practitioner the judgment necessary to make the fine distinctions, and make the important choices, that separate the excellent result from the average.
    • How many years have you done this type of legal work?
      • Many have come into financial law only in the past few years.
    • How many cases have you filed?
      • This is an objective measure of experience.
    • Have you filed cases in my jurisdiction?
      • Watch out some attorneys prepare and/or file cases in jurisdictions to which they are not admitted.
    • What percentage of your overall practice is devoted to this legal work?
      • There are only so many hours in the day. It’s hard to be competent in an area of the law when you’re doing everything under the sun.
  • Probe the attorney’s knowledge of the subject matter. There are objective benchmarks for this, too.
    • What have you published in this area of the law?
      • You can look it up.
    • What courses have you taught and to whom?
      • You can research this, too.
    • How much useful and original information is on the practitioner’s website?
      • If it’s thin, it may be an indicator of the depth of that attorney’s knowledge on that subject.
  • Make sure the personal comfort level is there. Make an appointment and meet personally with the attorney and his staff. You will need to be absolutely comfortable with the firm personnel, and vice versa. You must be thoroughly candid with your attorney while disclosing a lot of personal information. The more information you provide, and the more timely you provide it, the better the case will proceed and better will be the results obtained.

Calling around for prices works for commodity products, like say, watermelons. But you wouldn’t do that to choose a physician to treat your illness, would you? Why do that for an attorney to cure you financials ills? Use intelligent, relevant standards in making a selection.

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