How to Choose Affordable & Best Bankruptcy Attorney, Lawyer, Law Firm, Legal Counsel in San Diego CA
Recent historically high bankruptcy filing rates have created more demand for bankruptcy legal representation and consequently more attorneys have entered the bankruptcy area of practice. Here are a few things to consider when selecting your legal counsel.
Value of Personal Care
Cash strapped clients tend to look for cheap solutions. Beware though that “dirt cheap” fees can mean that either the attorney is not very experienced or that your case will actually be prepared by clerical staff. Your actual time spent with the attorney can be extremely limited and you may find yourself dealing mostly with secretaries and clerks who are forbidden to advise on legal matters. To get personal and quality attention from an attorney who understands your case you will need to pay for attorney time.
Don’t Be Intimidated
You should feel comfortable with anyone handling your legal and financial affairs and should have good chemistry with any attorney you intend to hire. Without it, the process can be extremely ardeous and stressful for both parties. Just as not every attorney is right fit for the client, not every client is a right fit for the attorney. When making your consultation appointment ask to speak directly with the attorney. If they are not accessible now or fail to return phone calls/emails within 24 hours it may be a clue as to what you can expect moving forward. Particularly in bankruptcy, clients often feel stressed and anxious. Plenty of quality communication with the attorney can alleviate those feelings and make the process as stress free as possible.
A free one hour consultation is customary. If you are not offered time up front, it does not speak highly of the service you might expect after you sign an agreement. Do your part by coming prepared by bringing any requested documents and information. Know your situation so that can answer questions with regard to your income, assets, and debts. Documents and accurate information is important because your counsel is trying to spot any issues in your case and give you as thorough analysis and feedback as possible.
You should receive explanations and answers to your questions and concerns in ways you can understand. If you sense hesitation or anything less than frankness, keep looking. The petitions are voluminous and must be accompanied by supporting documentation in a timely fashion. Look for someone organized, detail oriented, and not overwhelmed with too many cases. It’s best to steer clear of attorneys claiming to handle bankruptcies along with several other areas of the law. These “jack of all trades” are likely having to juggle not only understanding multiple areas of the law but also multiple court calendars, deadlines, and procedures. Spreading yourself too thin is how often attorneys get into trouble.
The 2005 law changes were significant enough to greatly equalize the playing field as new lawyers and old timers are facing new legal issues. An attorney cannot guarantee results but should explain any risks and uncertainties in your particular case.
Big Firms vs. Solo Practitioners
Large firm have many attorneys and clerical staff to handle work, but it often means the cases do not receive personal attention and clients never talk to the same person twice. Some individuals feel more secure and prefer to have one person who knows their case inside and out.
Seek an attorney who focuses their practice on bankruptcy law because they tend to invest in continuing legal education in this field. Most career minded bankruptcy attorneys maintain membership in the National Consumer Bankruptcy Association. They also invest in tools like manuals, continuing legal education courses, special bankruptcy software. Focusing on this one area of the law allows a professional to streamline procedures and meet the specific demands and deadlines of a bankruptcy practice. General practitioners can often be distracted in handling unrelated matters. It is also a good idea to check your local Better Business Bureau and your particular state’s Bar website to see if the lawyer is in good standing and whether they have a history of complaints.
The words “specialist” or “specialty” take on a much more precise meaning in the legal profession. Attorney ethic rules prevent use of such words except for specific exceptions. While I work exclusively as a bankruptcy attorney, I cannot advertise myself as a bankruptcy specialist. Any attorney who advertises themselves as a Bankruptcy Specialist can only do this if they in fact they have actually been certified in the practice by their State’s Bar. These designations are not requirements to practice and many bankruptcy attorneys choose not to go through the process and expense of being certified. You can confirm any potential attorney’s specialty and certifications as well as prior or currently pending disciplinary actions by going to your state’s Bar website.
Do you need a specialist? Not necessarily. A competent bankruptcy attorney can handle a case without being certified in the area of practice. At the same time, it is wise to steer clear of the other side of the spectrum, self representation, non-attorney petition preparers, or general practitioners. You want someone who deals with bankruptcy cases routinely. A general medical practitioner can perform surgery in an emergency, but otherwise should and would refer such a case to a surgeon.
Kathryn U. Tokarska, Esq. is admitted to practice in State of California. Graduate of California Western School of Law in San Diego, California, Ms. Tokarska concentrated her legal studies in area of Bankruptcy, Estate Planning, Taxation, Securities Regulations, and Real Estate Finance. She has over fourteen years of experience working for major financial investment institutions, offering financial planning services, investment products, wealth building and preservation strategies. Ms. Tokarska holds a Financial Paraplanner certificate, was a licensed stockbroker, and is currently enrolled in an LL.M. in Bankruptcy/Finance at Thomas Jefferson School of Law.
For assistance, contact Tokarska Law Center online, by Emailing Us, or by phone (619) 285-1992. We are a FEDERAL DEBT RELIEF AGENCY. We help people file for Bankruptcy Protection under the Federal and State Laws.