5 Questions to Ask BEFORE You Hire a Bankruptcy Attorney

Filing for bankruptcy is a very important decision and choosing the right attorney to help you file your case is key. In fact, the attorney you choose can impact your entire experience from beginning to end. To help you with this decision, we have come up with five questions that you can ask your potential attorney to make sure they are honest and have your best interest at heart.

Should I File for Bankruptcy?

Find out the implications of filing for bankruptcy in your own personal situation. The attorney should also take this opportunity to explain Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies and offer recommendations based on your situation. If the information you receive is too vague or not based on the specific creditors and debts you owe, it may not be sound advice. Ask if the attorney considers your case routine or complex and ask if they have handled similar cases in the past. You want an attorney that is experienced in bankruptcy that has handled past cases.

How Much Is This Going to Cost and What Do Those Fees Cover?

Getting a detailed explanation of how much everything is going to cost will make sure you don't get a surprise bill during the bankruptcy process. Many bankruptcy cases are based on a flat rate; however, there are reasons attorneys would charge by the hour for their services, especially after the case is filed with the Court. Although fees and the way they are paid vary from case to case and chapter to chapter, here is some basic information. Across the Nation, a Chapter 13 repayment plan filing fee is $310. The average attorney fee ranges from $2,000 to $4,000 and the fees are monitored by the Court. Some of the fees are paid before filing but many times the fees in a Chapter 13 can be paid through the case over time. For Chapter 7, the federal filing fee is $335 and attorney fees range on average from $800 to $3,000. These fees should cover everything needed to complete your case, given there are no rare, unforeseen issues that require more time and attention. Most attorneys will not quote fees by phone, so remember to take advantage of the free consultation where offered; fees will be discussed at that first meeting.

Make sure you get a written fee agreement; it is actually required by law.

After Reviewing My Case, Do You See Any Potential "Red Flags"?

Every case is different and there are certain actions that could cause trouble in your case. If you have given property away in the past two years or made purchases on your credit card in the last six months for electronics, appliances or other higher priced-tag items, the Court and creditors may closely scrutinize these transactions. If you discuss everything with the attorney, there may be ways to prevent these transactions from adversely affecting your case. Ask the attorney if there are any issues with your case that could affect your bankruptcy eligibility or generate additional legal work and fees after filing.

What Portion of Your Firm Is Dedicated to Bankruptcy Law?

The firm handling your bankruptcy should dedicate a substantial amount of time and resources to bankruptcy law. You want an attorney that is experienced with bankruptcy that knows the laws, creditor attorneys and the Judges before whom they will appear. Don't be afraid to ask about their credentials.

Will I know the attorney or paralegal working on my case?

The attorney you are meeting with should be the person who does most of the work on your case. It is fine if they say that paralegals or other support staff will help but make sure the attorney will be accessible to you. Also ask who will be attending the actual Court hearing with you.

These questions will give you a basic feel for what will go on during your case, and if the attorney you're meeting with will be a good fit for your case. April Randle is a bankruptcy attorney in the Cleveland, Tennessee, area, who wants to help you put your life back together. Since April Randle only handles bankruptcy cases, you know you are getting the best. If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, let April Randle guide your case in the right direction.