When you start reading up on what’s involved in declaring bankruptcy, it quickly becomes clear that it’s not something you can do on your own. You need to find and hire the right bankruptcy attorney who will guide you through this process and get the results you’re looking, which include a fresh start without the crushing load of debts that have made your life a nightmare. Here are five things to look for in a great bankruptcy attorney:
1. Experience. It may seem like a no-brainer that you want an attorney who has experience with bankruptcy cases, but it’s important to really know just how much experience the prospective attorney has in this area of law. To put this in perspective and get you thinking the right way, consider the following question: Which would you prefer, an attorney who has practiced bankruptcy law for 20 years but has only handled around five cases each year or an attorney who has practiced for only 10 years but has handled fifty cases each year? You should be looking for an attorney who has handled and is handling many cases. That would be an indication that they’ve been exposed to just about every possible situation in bankruptcy, and that’s the depth of experience you deserve.
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2. Integrity. You want to steer clear of any attorney that has been cited for any kind of ethics violation or malpractice. Check to see if the attorney is a member of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA), a well-respected consumer bankruptcy organization. Also make sure the attorney is a member of the state bar. Many state bar associations will have information about any disciplinary actions that have been taken against attorneys in their jurisdiction. Some of the online attorney directories and referral sites also have information about any violations or malpractice suits involving the attorney. Another sign is to make sure that there will be a written fee agreement that you both sign. If not, walk away.
3. Thoroughness. Preparing a bankruptcy filing requires the collection of a lot of information from you, the debtor seeking relief. A good bankruptcy attorney will have a complete list of all the detailed information needed to evaluate your case and decide what type of bankruptcy filing is right for you. Ask to take a look at the attorney’s “intake” document that details all the information needed. It should be multiple pages, asking for a huge variety of details about your financial situation. If it’s not that detailed, that should raise a red flag for you.
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4. Perceptiveness. A great bankruptcy attorney will know what questions to ask you to quickly assess your situation and determine what type of bankruptcy is likely to work best for you. If the attorney offers a free initial consultation (and many do), pay attention to what questions the attorney asks. You’ll be able to tell pretty quickly how “sharp” the attorney is and whether or not there’s a good fit between the two of you.
5. Personality. You’re going to be sharing intimate details of your financial situation with your bankruptcy attorney. You want an attorney who is discreet, professional and a good communicator. The attorney should also be kind and helpful, wanting to help you get the fresh start you need. In short, you want to be able to work well with this person who is going to guide you through a difficult and painful process.
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There are many things to take into account when you’re considering declaring bankruptcy. One of the most important is to make sure you find and hire the right bankruptcy attorney to handle your case. Any attorney who meets the above criteria will put you on a solid path to getting that fresh start you so desperately need.
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