“A” is for “Bankruptcy ATTORNEY”

by Janne Berry Osborne on November 19, 2012

in Bankruptcy A to Z

When filing for bankruptcy, one of your first decisions is which ATTORNEY to retain. The attorney you retain is the person to whom you will be giving all of your personal information and explaining how you got to where you are and where you want to be at the end of the bankruptcy process.  It is essential that you feel comfortable with your attorney, that you are able to speak freely and easily with your attorney, that you are able to tell your attorney things that might be embarrassing, and that you always feel you are able to ask questions.  It is also essential that the attorney you choose to represent you be able to talk to you in terms that you can understand and that the attorney speak with you — not AT you and not DOWN to you.  You need to choose an attorney whose paralegal, secretary, receptionist and other staff members are going to treat you with respect and courtesy.  And, you need to be able to contact your attorney whenever you have questions or concerns.  While you may not be able to speak with your attorney when you call, you should have the opportunity to speak with someone in your attorney’s office and to request — and GET — a call back from your attorney in a reasonable amount of time.  You might also consider other methods of communication — emails are terrific for asking a question because it gives the attorney the opportunity to think about your inquiry and formulate his response when she is not distracted or to have her paralegal put together the documents which address your questions or to have her secretary call you to schedule an appointment.

Your attorney is also the person who will be submitting all of your information to the Court, who will be interacting with the Bankruptcy Court personnel, the Trustee and your creditors, who will be presenting your case to the Court and arguing on your behalf, and who will be reporting all of this back to you and keeping you up to date on the status of your case.  In order to do all of this effectively, you need to choose an attorney who is experienced in representing people like YOU:  If you (and your spouse, if you are married) are an individual who has consumer debt like credit cards, a mortgage on your home or a car loan, you will want to retain an experienced bankruptcy attorney who normally represents individual consumer debtors in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies; if you own a business and have business debts and commercial leases, you will want to hire an experienced bankruptcy attorney who is familiar with the intricacies of commercial transactions and regularly represents business debtors in Chapter 7, Chapter 11 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies; if you are a corporation and want to reorganize your corporate debts, you will want to hire an experienced bankruptcy attorney who routinely handles complex Chapter 11 filings.

Lastly, when you do finally decide which attorney you are going to hire to represent you in your bankruptcy, make sure your attorney prepares a written agreement which specifically sets out what you are hiring the lawyer to do, what the attorney is going to do, how much it is going to cost, what things are not covered by the agreement, how additional charges are going to be handled and how you are going to pay the attorney.  Both you and your attorney should have a COMPLETE copy of this RETAINER AGREEMENT and both copies should show BOTH signatures and the date you both signed the Retainer Agreement.

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