Bankruptcy Questions and Answers written by a former bankruptcy attorney. These FAQs have been written as a guide for consumers thinking of filing bankruptcy or deepening there knowledge of bankruptcy
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Finding a Bankruptcy Attorney FAQs

Welcome to our two part

Bankruptcy Attorney FAQ

– Below find part I, Find A Bankruptcy Lawyer To File Your Case

These questions and answers guide you through the process of initial selection of a bankruptcy lawyer including where to look for bankruptcy attorneys in the first place and how to find a bankruptcy lawyer best for your own case from the list of potential attorney you find at the start of your search. Continue with part II for information on how to Hire And Work With Your Bankruptcy Lawyer.
Q. I think I need to file a bankruptcy, at a minimum I need to have a consultation with a bankruptcy lawyer. Where do I find a certified bankruptcy attorney?
A. First you need to know that lawyers do not undergo special certifications authorized by some government agency that assures they possess all of the specific skills needed to be a great bankruptcy lawyer.
Q. So any lawyer who passes the bar exam may hold themselves out as a bankruptcy lawyer?
A. Yes, there may be many ways to differentiate bankruptcy attorneys, but just because a lawyers says he or she practices bankruptcy law does not mean they possess expert skills or even maintain a minimum level of competency.
Q. How can a debtor who needs to file a bankruptcy filter through those who claim they work with the bankruptcy court and can tackle every aspect of my case from amateurs or incompetents who might turn my bankruptcy filing into a nightmare.
A. First you need to know what kind of bankruptcy client you are. Do you need a chapter 7 bankruptcy, a chapter 13 bankruptcy or a chapter 11 bankruptcy? Do you have a very odd case like a farmer requiring a chapter 12 bankruptcy or a city needing a chapter 9 bankruptcy? While you probably aren’t a municipality, knowing if you need a chapter 7 or chapter 13 bankruptcy, the type of bankruptcy filing used by most individuals, must proceed the bankruptcy filing process.
Q. Isn’t that why I would want to find a bankruptcy lawyer in the first place, to figure those things out?
A. You can establish some things in advance which, at a minimum will make you a more informed consumer. For example if you do not own a home you will most likely try for a chapter 7 bankruptcy rather than a chapter 13 bankruptcy. Those facing mortgage foreclosures will need a chapter 13 to save the home over the long run.
Q. What if I have more complicated issues when it comes to exactly what I should do in bankruptcy court?
A. That is exactly what I am getting at. Some bankruptcy candidates come in with very easy cases and others with very tricky ones. While you do not need to know exactly what to do, I would like to see people educate themselves to the point that they at least know what level of difficulty their bankruptcy case might represent.
Q. How can I figure out what kind of bankruptcy filing I might have?
A. Read about chapter 7 bankruptcy and chapter 13 bankruptcy basics, than figure out what bankruptcy exemption rules apply in your state and where you stand. When all that you own merits an exemption experts refer to that as a “no asset case”.
Q. Imagine I own no property or stocks and the equity in my car come in under the bankruptcy exemption, what next. I have $75,000 in credit card debt and other non-bankruptcy options look beyond my reach.
A. Before a bankruptcy filing end up confirmed your finances undergo a means test, where the bankruptcy court determines if you qualify to file under the chapter you selected. At this stage you should examine how you think you might be seen by the bankruptcy court by trying a mock means test.
Q. Easy for me, I have zero money after rent, food, gas and utilities for anything else. What can I conclude from all of this?
A. It sounds like you need a chapter 7, you have no house to deal with, a high level of debt and you meet the means test for a chapter 7 bankruptcy. For help figuring some of this out I have an interactive analysis program people can access at the Bankruptcy Opinion website.
Q. Once I figure out what type of bankruptcy I might want and how complex my own personal bankruptcy filing might be, how should I use that information to help me find a bankruptcy lawyer?
A. Let’s now examine who might hold themselves out as a bankruptcy attorney. Anyone at any level might in truth not be a lawyer or just be bad news for everyone. Very few lawyers fall into this group but a quick check with the local bar overseers or the local Better Business Bureau can help avoiding that issue.
Q. That stands as a good common sense start, but what kind of attorneys in good standing will file a bankruptcy for me?
A. While I may create groups for this discussion, I do so in order to understand general concepts that apply when attempting to find a bankruptcy lawyer. Do not expect any or all attorneys to fall specifically in one of these groups, any individual will overlap one way or another, but I want you to comprehend the ideas. With that in mind, let’s start by splitting lawyers into two groups first. The primary group, just because it represents the larger group, encompasses attorneys who practice in many areas of the law including bankruptcy.
Q. What types of other area of law might an attorney work in aside from bankruptcy?
A. It can vary, but the answers offer some clues. For example, real estate, non-bankruptcy debt solutions, foreclosure prevention or credit repair might stand as areas of law not directly connected to bankruptcy but really exist as areas related to bankruptcy. On the other hand, an attorney whose remaining practice consists of personal injury, criminal or divorce might be a fellow attempting to be a jack of all trades for the law.
Q. Would there be a problem with a jack of all trades lawyer if they had a fair idea of what they were doing?
A. Now we bring back into the picture your type of case. For people with a basic chapter 7 bankruptcy or a particularly simple chapter 13 bankruptcy an honest lawyer who files bankruptcy for debtors as a regular but limited part of their law practice should do just fine. That does not mean you should not try to find a bankruptcy specialist but for easy cases it’s not as critical. This may be especially meaningful for someone in such a small town no bankruptcy lawyer exists or where a debtor really wants to use a family member or friend to represent them who practices bankruptcy law as small part of their business.
Q. What would throw a case out of the easy bankruptcy filing category?
A. We talked earlier about exemptions and the means test. If you think you may have non-exempt assets or you might not pass the means test you might not have a basic case.
Q. Much of the discussion centered on chapter 7 bankruptcy, what would make for an easy chapter 13 bankruptcy?
A. For most debtors with the income to easily put together a reorganization plan over 5 years or less, with no non-exempt assets, you likely have the formula for a standard chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Q. What kinds of things might turn a guess about a simple case upside down?
A. Most of the time, especially in an easy bankruptcy case, the creditors not only refrain from objections, they usually never even show up at your hearings or trustee meetings. When a creditor decides to make trouble unexpectedly any case becomes more complicated.
Q. Now let’s talk about what happens in a complicated case. Figure I have non-exempt assets and I might fail my means test for a chapter 7 and I expect a fight from a large creditor too.
A. For more complex cases I prefer to direct debtors toward lawyers specializing in bankruptcy law.
Q. Since the state offers no real training or certification to distinguish someone as a bankruptcy law specialist how might I start to find such an attorney?
A. Unfortunately no one thing exists that tells a debtor they found a great bankruptcy lawyer. Like a detective you have to look for clues. Use this list as an example of things to look for:

1. Do they belong to organizations specifically dealing with bankruptcy like the American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI) or the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy (NACBA)? Attorneys ( make these two links, get them here You might see organizations like Commercial Finance Association (CFA) or the Commercial Law League of America (CLLA) too but note these exist for creditor’s lawyers not debtor’s attorneys so you might not even want someone who may be an expert but from the creditor side.

2. What types of bankruptcy cases do they say they will file? In order of difficulty I would generally rank bankruptcy in this order: chapter 7, chapter 13, chapter 12, chapter 11, chapter 9. If we ignore the odd chapter 12 and chapter 9 cases, the real separator here comes by seeing who works with chapter 11, those that do likely concentrate more on bankruptcy and possess more expertise for consumer chapter 7 or chapter 13 cases too.

3. Are they chapter 7 bankruptcy trustees? What is a bankruptcy trustee deserves its own FAQ, just know for our purposes here that most chapter 7 bankruptcy trustees also maintain a private bankruptcy practice and they know bankruptcy law very well.

4. What kind of law firm do they belong to? In a firm of 10 bankruptcy attorneys you can probably figure they are knowledgeable bankruptcy attorneys. A firm of 2 estate lawyers, 3 family law attorneys, 3 criminal lawyers, a bankruptcy attorney and an ambulance chaser leaves you guessing.

5. What does public information say about them? Look at their ads and other places they say what they do. Is bankruptcy the only area of law they offer or a small footnote at the bottom of huge list.

6. Do they say they can handle your case? Most good lawyers know what they can and cannot handle. While caveat emptor (Let the buyer beware) applies, an attorney who lacks the skills to take on your complex bankruptcy should decline your case.

Q. So should I use this list to give a score to each potential bankruptcy lawyer and hire the one who ranks highest to file my bankruptcy case?
A. No, not at all. As I said, these represent clues and nothing more. Use the information like this: Imagine you work as the hiring manger of a large corporation. A hundred resumes came in to fill a job. Your first task involves selecting a small portion of the applicants to call in for an interview. Use the above list in that way, as a screening tool to establish a list of finalists. While on this example figure the type of job available based on the level of bankruptcy you need to file. For a very simple bankruptcy imagine you’re hiring someone for the mail room and apply that level of scrutiny, for a super complicated or contested case figure you’re trying to find the Chief Operating Officer.
Q. That leaves me a medium size list of potential bankruptcy attorneys, how do I find lawyers to knock out of consideration?
A. Take a minute just to make sure none have long histories of violations or disbarments. You might also check with your local Better Business Bureau and remove bankruptcy attorneys with multiple complaints from your list. Think for a minute about how you felt when talking to the firms and who exactly they said would work on your case, if you feel you stumbled onto a “bankruptcy mill” consider if you want to avoid that.
Q. What constitutes a “bankruptcy mill” and when would I want to run from them?
A. Firms trying to handle a very large number of cases sometimes get labeled as bankruptcy mills. On the down side you may get very little personal attention particularly from the lead attorneys. Most work gets handles by clerks, paralegals or junior lawyers. Again, think about your own case and what you want. For complex cases you need to make sure experienced lawyers attend to the details. From a personal point of view if they made you feel like a faceless number during the initial process and you objected to that don’t figure it gets better.
Q. Would a debtor ever want to hire a “bankruptcy mill” to file their case?
A. For easy cases a “bankruptcy mill” might still do an adequate job, and in some instances the cost may be so much lower it makes a smart decision. As I said earlier, think of it as buyers beware choice. If you know what you are getting into and feel fine with it you may be able to save some money.
Q. I’ve got a list narrowed down to just around 2 or 3 or 4 potential bankruptcy lawyers, who do I hire to file my case?
A. As with our employment example, you should interview them. Consider these items:
- Does the attorney make you feel confident in their abilities?
- Are they good communicators?
- Do they answer your questions and do they give answers in a way you understand them?
- Do they believe in your case and do they feel they case successfully complete it?
- How is their “bedside manor” or how do they make you feel about yourself?
Q. I’m not sure I understand the “bedside manor” question, what does that have to do with a bankruptcy attorney?
A. Filing for bankruptcy involves many intimate personal issues. The whole bankruptcy filing process makes a person feel bad just by definition. I have an FAQ dealing with the emotions surrounding being in debt if you think it might help you. That last thing you want is a bankruptcy lawyer who makes you feel stupid or lowly because of your financial problems.
Q. Suppose I talked those bankruptcy attorneys and only 2 or 3 finalists remain. Who should I select to file my bankruptcy?
A. I saved this for last because I think the other items matter more, especially for technical bankruptcy cases, but if you find yourself with a short list of good candidates, compare prices. Some may end up so close you still have a toss up, but some bankruptcy lawyers may charge double or more, especially if you ask a high end chapter 11 specialist to file a simple chapter 7 bankruptcy case. You should have learned a bit in the interview stage too because while most potential bankruptcy attorneys offered you a free consultation, several may have demanded a fee just for talking.
Q. That all sounds great in theory, but I’m not even sure where to begin looking. Where should I look to find names of bankruptcy lawyers in the first place?
A. You can start with an attorney network like Total Bankruptcy, you may use them to meet a bankruptcy lawyer in your area by filling out their online form or calling 877-219-3201. Online directories like Attorney Find or more traditional lawyer directories with online versions like Martindale-Hubbel who now powers and West’s directory which now runs online through Thomson Rueters’ Findlaw offer lists of thousands of lawyers and allow potential clients to search by practice areas. Last but not least, look for a bankruptcy attorney in the yellow pages.
Q. I found a bankruptcy attorney, what do I do now.
A. Hire them and work with work with your chosen lawyer to file and complete your case, but that provides us with the subject of our next FAQ.

Bankruptcy Questions, Answers and Information

Bankruptcy FAQs
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy FAQ
Chapter 7 vs. Chapter 13 Bankruptcy FAQ
What is Chapter 13 FAQ
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Calculator
Who Should File Chapter 13 Bankruptcy FAQ
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Process Questions
Bankruptcy FAQ – Chapter 13 – Case Dismissal
Bankruptcy vs. Foreclosure FAQ
Bankruptcy Lawyer FAQ Part I - Find An Attorney
Bankruptcy Lawyer FAQ Part II - Hire An Attorney
Bankruptcy and Tax Debt FAQ
Student Loan Debt in Bankruptcy FAQ
Non-Bankruptcy Solutions Vs. Bankruptcy FAQ
Bankruptcy Information
Bankruptcy Alternatives - Debtor's Options
US Federal Personal Bankruptcy Exemptions
US States Personal Bankruptcy Exemptions
Table Of Which US States Use Federal Exemptions
Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention Act - 2005
Chapter 11 Overview
Bankruptcy Forms
Dictionary Of Bankruptcy Terminology

Bankruptcy Alternatives
& Debt Or Credit Help

Bankruptcy Alternatives - Debtor's Options
Stop Home Foreclosure Help Articles And FAQs
How To Stop Foreclosure Options Explained
Foreclosure Process Information FAQ
Short Sale FAQ
Deed in Lieu Of Foreclosure FAQ
Understanding And Erasing Credit Card Debt
Credit Card Debt Relief - Debt Settlement
Free Online Credit Improvement Course
Credit Rebuilding Article
Understand Credit Score
Loan Options For Bad Credit Borrowers
Directory Of Bad Credit Mortgage Brokers
Credit Cards For People With Bad Credit Articles
Free Interactive Budget Calculator And Analysis
Who To Pay When You Can't Pay Everyone
How To Get Money When You Need Money
Debt Calculators

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