5 Questions to Ask a Potential Bankruptcy Lawyer
By Tracy L. Hirsch
If you have bankruptcy questions, and are considering filing a petition, it’s important to have highly qualified legal representation.
Choosing to file for bankruptcy is an important decision, and you need someone who is on your side to help you navigate the filing process. That’s why it’s important to ‘interview’ any prospective attorney that you’re thinking of hiring in Louisville, KY.
If you’re unsure which questions you should ask, here is a list of the top five that will help you find the most qualified bankruptcy attorney.
Question #1: How many years have you been practicing bankruptcy law?
When hiring a bankruptcy attorney, it’s important to find out how long they’ve been practicing bankruptcy law. More often than not, the longer they’ve been practicing, the more experience they’re going to have. However, that’s only if they primarily file bankruptcy cases.
Even if someone has several years of experience as an attorney, it’s just as important to ask if bankruptcy is their main (or only) focus.
For example, an attorney may have 20 years of experience, but offer things such as wills and other legal services in addition to bankruptcy. If they’ve only filed 20 bankruptcy cases in 20 years’ time, that means that they don’t have a lot of experience specifically in bankruptcy law.
Why is this important? It’s important because in order to have a successful completion of your bankruptcy plan, you should only work with an attorney who knows every aspect of bankruptcy law (not just the basics). If they file at least 80 or more cases per year, chances are that they’re well-versed in bankruptcy.
They should be familiar with complex debt-related situations, and should be able to help you with judgment liens, foreclosures, reaffirmation agreements, tax issues, and more.
Question #2: Do you have cases that are similar to my situation?
Along the same lines as the first question, this helps you get a better idea of how well they can handle “outside-of-the-box” situations. Let’s say you’re facing foreclosure, have three judgment liens against your property, and are in the process of getting divorced and changing jobs.
That scenario contains a lot of variables, and you need a bankruptcy lawyer who is experienced handling cases that aren’t ‘cookie cutter’ and straightforward. The more experience they have with multiple complicated situations, the more likely they’ll be able to efficiently handle your case if it’s complicated as well.
Remember: Doing your research ahead of time will pay off in the long run.
Question #3: Will you be my main point-of-contact throughout the entire bankruptcy filing process?
This is probably the most important question that you can ask. If you’re wondering why, it’s because it’s very common for bankruptcy law firms to pass off most of the work to their paralegals or assistants.
This is less than ideal (and often dangerous) for multiple reasons, namely because a paralegal cannot give legal advice, and thus, should not be doing the majority of the work on your case. If a paralegal is giving you direct legal advice, that’s against the law.
Unfortunately, that’s a very common practice, which is why it’s imperative to ask any potential attorney if they will be the one doing all of the work on your case. You should specifically ask the attorney if they will be the one doing the intake and filing process.
Additionally, you should ask the attorney if you will be able to contact them directly if you have questions at any point during your bankruptcy plan.
It’s best not to assume that they’ll be part of every aspect of your case from beginning to end, so make sure you ask if they themselves (not an assistant) will be the one filing your case and submitting legal documents to the bankruptcy court.
Question #4: Which chapter of bankruptcy is best for me?
When it comes to filing for bankruptcy as an individual, you can file a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy works best for people who are unable to pay back their debts, and need a fresh start in 90 days.
A Chapter 13 works best for people who make enough money to pay back at least part (and sometimes all) of their debt, but are unable to pay it back all at once. A Chapter 13 is a way to set up an interest-free repayment plan where you have up to five years to pay back your debts.
A Chapter 13 can also help you pay back tax debt and mortgage arrearages, and gives you the opportunity to renegotiate the APR on high-interest loans (your attorney can renegotiate on your behalf).
If you meet with an attorney for a consultation, he or she will assess your financial situation, such as your income, total debt owed, property value, and so on. Once they get a ‘big picture’ view, they can tell you which Chapter you qualify for.
Question #5: Do I have other options besides filing for bankruptcy?
After explaining your financial situation to a potential attorney, ask them for their honest feedback as to whether or not filing for bankruptcy is the best option for you.
A lawyer who has integrity will let you know if you don’t need to file for bankruptcy. If they’re really honest and upright, they will never encourage you to choose bankruptcy if it’s unnecessary or not the best fit for your situation.
As a bankruptcy lawyer in Louisville, Kentucky for the past 21 years, there have been numerous times where I told a potential client that they didn’t need to file for bankruptcy. Since I solely practice bankruptcy law, I am able to determine that during our free consultation.
Over the past two decades, I have handled both simple and complex cases, and everything in between. Additionally, I work with my clients every step of the way from beginning to end, and all official legal proceedings are done by me (not a legal assistant).
My clients have access to me seven days a week, and are able to call me and/or text me on my cell phone.
I file both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases regularly, and am ready to answer any questions that you may have! For a free case evaluation, you can text or call me at (502) 435-2593, or you can fill out our contact form below.
I look forward to speaking with you!
All the best,
Tracy L. Hirsch
Louisville Bankruptcy Lawyer
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