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Your best investment in navigating the bankruptcy maze is a skilled, experienced bankruptcy attorney.
Just as there are good doctors and bad doctors, good teachers and bad teachers, good auto mechanics and bad auto mechanics, so too there are good lawyers and bad lawyers. Indeed, some attorneys are barely competent or even downright incompetent. Just as there is no simple, guaranteed way of finding a good doctor, there is no simple, guaranteed way to find a good lawyer. Here are some things to look for:
It would seem obvious that an attorney who has been practicing for 25 years should know more than an attorney with only 10 years' experience. However, that is not always the case. There are some attorneys who have practiced bankruptcy law for many years, but have never really mastered the subject. There are other attorneys who have pursued a general practice, filing a case now and then. If they have been practicing for 25 years without much in-depth experience in bankruptcy that does not translate to the expertise you need.
Tip #1: Look for an attorney with many years' experience in consumer and small business bankruptcy law, who enjoys the respect of other bankruptcy attorneys, the trustees, and the judges.
After an attorney graduates from law school and passes the state bar examination, then the real learning begins. Even when there are not many new laws being passed on a particular subject, attorneys improve their skills by attending educational seminars. Now, with the enactment of a completely different bankruptcy law, education is an absolute necessity. So many basic concepts under the prior law just don't work anymore. And, the new law is so complex, an attorney is making a big mistake if s/he thinks s/he can understand it by just sitting down and reading it. There is only one organization that is devoted to training attorneys who represent debtors - the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA). Is the attorney a member of NACBA? Did the attorney attend NACBA educational events?
Tip #2: Look for an attorney who belongs to professional organizations that represent clients like you and who regularly attends continuing legal education events.
An attorney who tells you what you should do before s/he even listens to the facts of your situation is not the right attorney. Unfortunately, some attorneys have a "cookie cutter" approach to legal advice which completely ignores the true difficulties or opportunities that your case may present.
Tip #3: You want an attorney who will listen to your facts and ask the right questions so s/he will truly understand your case.
to probe every aspect of a client's situation before a bankruptcy can be filed. A bankruptcy lawyer needs to know family law, to make sure all marital debts and assets as well are properly scheduled; a bankruptcy lawyer needs to know business law, to make sure that assets and debts related to partnerships, former partnerships, corporations and other entities are properly scheduled; a bankruptcy lawyer needs to know probate law, to make sure that inheritance rights (including those that arise after filing pursuant to § 541(a)(5)) are properly scheduled; a bankruptcy lawyer needs to know real estate law, to make sure that all interests in real property are properly scheduled; a bankruptcy lawyer needs to know the law of secured transactions, to make sure that secured debts and collateral are properly scheduled; the list is endless. There is no substitute for detailed questioning by an attorney.
Tip #4: Get an attorney who interviews you himself/herself instead of passing you off to a paralegal or other staff member.
Contrary to what many people think, going through a Bankruptcy is not simply a matter of filling out some forms. It is a complicated process that involves the application of both federal and state law to the facts of each individual case. It is much like running through a legal mine field. You need to know where the mines are buried. If you don't you can make your situation worse. The outcome of any case depends on the particular facts in that particular case. It is very rare that two cases are exactly alike. Like snowflakes, every case is different even if they appear similar. Each person is unique. With different, property, debts, income and expenses health and family. The law will apply differently as facts change. It takes a knowledgeable and experienced attorney to help guide you through the mine field of your particular case. You don't want to be led into a dead-end by following advice that is wrong for your particular situation.
Tip #5: Your attorney should listen to you and then consider your specific facts in the context of the law. Only by doing that will s/he be able to give you the advice you deserve - good advice.
The situation for which you seek legal help is your situation not the lawyers. The choices you face are yours to make not the lawyers. The consequences of the choices are yours not the lawyers. Therefore, in order to make good choices it is necessary that you make well informed choices and understand how the law applies to your situation.
Tip #6: Get someone who respects the fact that you are the authority on your own life, that it is your right and duty to decide what is best for you and who will take the time to teach you how the law applies to your situation so that you can make the right choices.
Choosing a lawyer is very important. You are hiring somebody to help you. Do not be intimidated.
Tip #7: Ask:
One of the biggest concerns is what’s this going to cost? It has often been said that cheap help isn’t good and good Help isn’t cheap. If you needed a heart transplant would you be more concerned about the quality of the surgeon or the amount of his fees? If I am sky diving, I probably am not going to opt for the cheapest parachute I can find! By the same token, high fees do not necessary mean better representation. You can hire an attorney and pay $800 per hr. for the big name law firm and have the work done by a paralegal or law student. That is paid $15 per hr.
Tip #8: Get it in writing. You should look for an attorney who will put it in writing with a fee agreement that tells:
In Michigan the fees an attorney can charge is governed by The Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct Rule: 1.5 Fees which provides:
Holmes Law Offices, is designated as a Federal Debt Relief Agency by an Act of Congress and the President of the United States. We Have proudly assisted consumers seeking relief under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code Since 1975.
Holmes Law Offices, is A Member of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys.