Have you noticed all the choices at the gas pump? There’s diesel, regular gas, biofuels, and an assortment of color-coded octane ratings. I even saw a choice for racing fuel. (That sounds good, but does my old car really need that?). It’s confusing trying to figure out what it all means and which is best for your car. You don’t want to get it wrong because putting the wrong gas into your car can be really bad, possibly even causing permanent damage to your car. To avoid this, some (but not all!) gas pump makers design nozzles larger than the fill tube so you don’t accidentally put the wrong fuel in your car. Even if you tried to put diesel in your non-diesel car you couldn’t do it.
Wouldn’t it be nice if choosing a lawyer had those kinds of safeguards? Selecting the right lawyer is a lot like pumping gas at the station. If you choose the wrong one, things could go very wrong, especially in a bankruptcy case. Bankruptcy is a highly specialized area of law, even some lawyers have a hard time figuring it out. If your lawyer doesn’t fully understand bankruptcy law, the results could be as bad as putting the wrong gas in your car, maybe worse – you could lose your money and property.
So how do you find the right bankruptcy lawyer? While there’s no guaranteed way of finding a good lawyer, here are some suggestions:
Get a referral from someone you know. If you know a friend, relative, or co-worker who has filed bankruptcy, ask if they were happy with their lawyer. It’s likely they will be very candid with their opinion of their lawyer. Ask questions like, Was the lawyer prompt in responding to your phone calls and emails? Was the phone answered by a real person? Did the lawyer do a good job? Did the case succeed or were there problems? Did the lawyer tell them about potential problems before the case was filed? Would they recommend the attorney? Don’t overlook the staff. Was the staff helpful, knowledgeable, and able to quickly answer your questions?
Length of time in practice. This is a pretty good indicator that your bankruptcy lawyer knows what’s going on. The reality is that the longer a lawyer has been in practice the better understanding that lawyer has of the law.
Look at online reviews. These are just as important as personal referrals. According to industry websites, approximately 83 percent of people check lawyer reviews as the first step to finding an attorney. 70 percent of clients are willing to go to an attorney in an inconvenient location if that attorney has better reviews and higher ratings than legal professionals who are closer to home. Quality of service and years of experience (48 percent) are the two most important types of information for clients when reading online reviews of lawyers and law firms.
Does the attorney have any special training or certification? Very few lawyers will seek additional training after law school. Some, however, continue on and study to be recognized as an expert in bankruptcy law. Find a lawyer who has gone above and beyond the minimum requirements of law school and has obtained special certification or education to be recognized as an expert in bankruptcy law.
Interview your potential new attorney! No kidding. Keep in mind, you are the boss and can hire anyone you want. You have to feel comfortable with your attorney. Most bankruptcy lawyers offer a free initial consultation and will review your financial situation – at no cost – and give you options to consider. So set up a free appointment and get to know your lawyer.
While there is no guarantee of outcome in any case, you can certainly minimize your concerns by finding an experienced bankruptcy attorney, even if you have to drive a short distance. It could save you time, money, loss of property – and give you peace of mind.
If you would like to meet the attorney and staff of our firm, please contact us. We look forward to meeting you.