Before you meet with a Bankrutpcy Lawyer

Hoping to hire “The Best” not just the “Cheapest” San Diego Bankruptcy Attorney?…

Things to consider before you schedule a consultation with a Bankruptcy Lawyer

FIRST, DON’T BE INTIMATED:

You should feel comfortable, have good chemistry, with anyone handling something as important as your legal and financial affairs. Bankruptcy filing can be scary so you want someone who is responsive, picks up the phone when you call, and then actually listen to you. Before hiring a bankruptcy lawyer, ask questions, read thoroughly the attorney client agreement.

It is not unreasonable to negotiate the fees, ask how long they have been practicing Bankruptcy and how many bankruptcy cases they filed. How to find a Good Bankruptcy Attorney: Consumer Resources by National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys

SECOND, IT’S IMPORTANT TO RECEIVE ADEQUATE COUNSELING BEFORE, DURING, AND AFTER:

Is the attorney generous with their time? Are you dealing with the attorney directly or mostly with clerical staff not qualified nor licensed to offer legal advice? Are the legal fees buying you adequate time and attention from an experienced San Diego Bankruptcy lawyer. You want a lawyer who not only understands bankruptcy laws, our San Diego local rules and procedures, but also your specific situation, your case?

It can be extremely frustrating to deal with an attorney who is inaccessible, handles too many cases and barely know your name.  How about attorneys who avoid you and don’t promptly return calls or e-mails?  The best bankruptcy legal representation means good and active communications with your bankruptcy attorney. It means a successful case, quick discharge, great results with little to no worry or stress, money well spent. See 2014 published court opinion: Judge offers harsh words for attorneys operating “bankruptcy mills”

At TLC you are assured with direct prompt and frequent contact with your attorney.

THE IMPORTANCE OF PROPER BANKRUPTCY PETITION PREPARATIONS:

Who will be preparing your petition, an attorney or clerical staff or will the work be outsourced to third party petition preparer? Some years ago TLC obtained a solicitation for prearing the petition forms super cheap by a foreign firm. Do you want your personal financial information like tax records, social security number, bank statements sent to who knows who? Even if the preparer is San Diego based and trustworthy, quality will depend on attorney’s efforts in supervising and reviewing the preparer’s work. Will a bankruptcy attorney who delegates the petition preparations dedicate adequate time and proper effort to thoroughly review that petition and the documents to be filed with the Court?

At TLC case preparations are done by your attorney who is familiar with your case to ensure proper attention to detail.

A FAMILIAR TRUSTWORTHY FACE AT A TRUSTEE MEETING (CREDITORS MEETING):

San Diego’s Local Court Bankruptcy rules state that if an “appearance attorney” is to attend the Trustees Meeting, that appearance attorney must PERSONALLY meet with the debtor(s) AT LEAST ONCE (SPECIFICALLY NOT AT THE TRUSTEE OFFICE JUST PRIOR TO THE MEETING) and be thoroughly knowledgeable about the case. The attorney who understand your case can address any questions or concerns at the meeting. Clients should also have received adequate counseling so that they know what to expect and come to all hearing(s) confident and prepared. TLC does not retain appearance attorneys to handle hearings. Your attorney, who is familiar with all aspects of your case, will attend all hearings with you, and provide you with proper instructions to prepare you for important meetings.

TRICKMEISTERS “START YOUR CASE FOR LITTLE OR NO MONEY DOWN” “$100 STARTS YOUR CASE” “BANKRUPTCY CASES FOR AS LITTLE AS $699”

Understandably paying your bankruptcy lawyer is a challenge, I mean hey If I wasn’t broke I would be here needing this. “Start your case with little to no money down” or “bankruptcy representation for as little as $699”. may not be illegal but it does seem disingenuous. You might think that “start your case” means the firm will file your bankruptcy case with the court. Nope. Preparation of the petition and filing of the case will happen AFTER legal fees are paid in full (see Bankruptcy Legal Fee Payment Installment Plans below why). They will make an office file and hopefully send letters of representation to the creditors. But “Starts your case” is puffery.

Until your bankruptcy petition is actually filed with the court, you and your assets are not protected. The “as little as” claims are just like the “you could lose as much as 50 pounds in two weeks” though of course “your actual results may vary”. Buyer beware. TLC is frank and honest, under promise and over deliver, exceed expectations so when the case is done the client can say confidently they hired a great San Diego bankruptcy lawyer and she was worth every dollar.

A FEW WORDS ABOUT BANKRUPTCY LEGAL FEE PAYMENT INSTALLMENT PLAN:

Here is something many people don’t know. Unpaid legal fees are a “pre-petition unsecured debt” in Chapter 7. You might say “so what, who cares?” All debts must be listed in your bankruptcy petition Schedule F. A creditor, and if you owe the bankruptcy lawyer legal fees ironically that makes them your lawyer and also a creditor in your bankruptcy case, who attempts to collect on a pre petition debt while the case is pending is in violation of the automatic stay.

A creditor who attempts to collect after discharge order is granted is in violation of the discharge order. There is NO exception to discharge for bankruptcy attorney legal fees. So, if you haven’t paid your bankruptcy lawyer before he/she filed the case, Congratulations, you don’t have to pay them. Payment plans are okay but the payments must be completed, the legal fees paid in full BEFORE attorneys file a case.

TLC payment arrangements are flexible and designed to work with client’s needs. The payment plan is spelled out in the agreement. The case is filed after all legal fees are paid in full. Discuss your circumstances and need for payment arrangements with the attorney.

BEFORE CONSULTING WITH A BANKRUPTCY LAW FIRM:

  1. WHO IS THE ATTORNEY AND ARE THEY LOCAL? Each bankruptcy court has their own local rules. San Diego Bankruptcy Court handles some things different from Los Angeles or Riverside even though they are in the same state. A California licensed anywhere in the state can still file a case in the Southern District Bankruptcy court in San Diego though the Rules of the Court may be significantly different. Out of town Attorneys must either spend to travel to San Diego for hearings hearing or hire an appearance attorney to attend in their place. Personally I would not want anyone but my attorney attending the hearing with me.
  2. IS THAT INDIVIDUAL ACTUALLY LICENSED? IS THEIR LICENSE IN GOOD STANDING? It is surprising how many people do not check out the lawyer’s license status BEFORE hiring one. This Link to State Bar of California will not only show you if the license is valid but how long they have been in practice and whether there have been complaints made, license suspensions. (Red Flag: Disciplinary or Administrative Actions)
  3. DOES ATTORNEY OR LAW FIRM HAVE POSITIVE CLIENT REVIEWS:Better Business Bureau, Google, Yelp, Avvo, Nolo, (Red Flag: several complaints)
  4. IS ATTORNEY MEMBER OF A PROFESSIONAL BANKRUPTCY ASSOCIATION – Consumer Bankruptcy attorneys typically join the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys and San Diego Bankruptcy lawyers join the San Diego Bankruptcy Forum/California Bankruptcy Forum. Lack of membership could indicate that the lawyer is either not very active in bankruptcy practice. It also means they don’t support an organization that is lobbying Congress for laws that favor the debtor.  Would you hire a podiatrist to check out your chest pain?  How about a divorce attorney to handle your bankruptcy case?  Typically attorneys pay membership fees and join associations specific to their area of practice so they have access to continuing legal education seminars, updates on legal precedents, share knowledge and expertise with other local attorneys in the same practice area.
  5. WHAT IS THE ATTORNEY’S BREATH OF EXPERIENCE IN REPRESENTING DEBTORS IN BANKRUPTCY PROCEEDINGS?: Link to PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records allows you to look up cases by name, search of attorney name should produce list of cases previously filed. Red flag: either little or no cases have been filed or there is a pattern of filed cases ending in dismissals)
  6. IF A SAN DIEGO BANKRUPTCY LAWYER IS ADVERTISING THAT THEY ARE “CERTIFIED” OR “A BANKRUPTCY SPECIALIST” confirm that in fact that lawyer has received certification from the State of California Bar Association in Bankruptcy. To practice Bankruptcy competently certification is NOT necessary but ethical rules forbid attorneys to advertise that they are a “specialist” if they have not actually been certified as a specialist by the Bar. If a lawyer is not complying with this basic rule makes one wonder what other compliance issues there may be? How about how that attorney handles clien trust accounts?

TO HIRE BANKRUPTCY ATTORNEY THE LAWYER BY LAW MUST PROVIDE YOU WITH AT LEAST TWO THINGS:

  1. ATTORNEY/CLIENT AGREEMENT: with both A) Legal Fees and B) Scope of Representation CLEARLY spelled out and
  2. BANKRUPTCY DISCLOSURES legally required by Bankruptcy Rules