Choosing a Bankruptcy Attorney
If you are experiencing financial difficulty, how do you go about finding the right lawyer to help you?
Let’s assume you were looking for a cosmetic surgeon. Did you know that any surgeon can hold himself out to be a “cosmetic surgeon”? Would you hire one who did not specialize in the practice? Of course not. You would probably limit your search to surgeons who are board-certified in plastic surgery, knowing that they have met strenuous criteria and have undergone extensive training in the field. In the same realm, you should know that any lawyer can file bankruptcy. Just because they are authorized to do it, does not mean they do it well.
You should take no less care in selecting a bankruptcy attorney than you would in selecting a doctor to help you with a life threatening illness
There is only one national organization that certifies attorneys as bankruptcy specialists. This is known as the American Board of Certification (www.ABCworld.org). It imposes stringent and comprehensive requirements before it will certify a lawyer as a bankruptcy specialist. Furthermore, the Board separately certifies lawyers as to whether they are specialists in the area of consumer bankruptcy or business bankruptcy.
Currently, there are only 112 lawyers in United States who are board-certified in both business and consumer bankruptcy law. Julianne R. Frank is one of them.
You may be tempted to shop for a bankruptcy lawyer based on their fees. With lawyers, like everything else in this world, you get what you pay for. Lower fees may be charged by less experienced lawyers or those who provide less personal attention to client’s concerns. Be wary of a lawyer who imposes the “bait and switch” tactic: they quote a fee in advertising or over the phone, but once in their office, they advise you that this fee applies only in limited situations.
There are several questions that you should ask before retaining a bankruptcy lawyer, in addition to the obvious inquiry about certification. Here are a few recommended topics for discussion:
- How many years has the lawyer been in practice?
- How much of their practice is devoted exclusively to bankruptcy law?
- At the intake conference, will you be meeting with a lawyer or will you be interviewed by a staff member or a paralegal?
- Has the lawyer had personal experience in cases that have been challenged?
- Will the lawyer handle a challenge or will you be referred to another lawyer?
- Does the lawyer handle all different forms of bankruptcy?
- Does the lawyer offer non-bankruptcy alternatives, such as asset protection planning, debt management, credit restoration and dispute resolution and general financial distress counseling?
You are entitled to learn about a lawyer’s credentials, reputation and experience without being charged for that information. You should insist upon it before making your decision.