Best Bankruptcy Attorney: Guide how to Find the Best BK Lawyer
When you find yourself with debt and trapped, you might find yourself wondering “who is the best bankruptcy attorney near me.” There probably is no one “best bankruptcy attorney” but there are some criteria you can evaluate. Then, maybe you can find who might be the best bankruptcy lawyer for you.
You’re shopping for a bankruptcy lawyer, and while you’d like him or her to be the “best bankruptcy lawyer near me” what you really want is someone experienced, skilled, and qualified. Their lawyer websites can tell you a lot about the person you’re evaluating. Look around them, explore. Read. This is what they put out there to public as their resume, their billboard. They’re expecting you to judge them by their attorney websites. And after that, if one really appeals to you, ask them questions in person. Between their websites and in-person interviews, try to find out how they stack up with the following factors.
Best Bankruptcy Attorney should know…. bankruptcy
Firstly, when you’re looking for someone that’s the best at something, insist on someone who does it, and only it. So, for your possible bankruptcy filing, insist on a bankruptcy lawyer. And that means someone that does only bankruptcies. You don’t want someone who dabbles.
The saying “jack of all trades, master of none” applies here. Bankruptcy is a very specific specialty. There are lots of nuances, and twists and turns. You don’t want a part-timer here. Expect someone who makes their living in this, who is immersed in it.
Some giveaways would be the following. Look at the lawyer web site. Does the lawyer do only bankruptcy cases? Or do they also do dogbites and divorces. Does the website include long, in-depth descriptions about Chapter 7 bankruptcy and Chapter 13, or does it say the lawyer specializes in civil litigation, which means, pretty much, everything. Is the website URL bankruptcy-specific, or just a law firm name or person’s name? And in person, the question should be “what percent of your practice the last two years is dedicated to bankruptcy law?” Anything under 75% and you may have a dabbler. Run away!
You should expect the “best bankruptcy attorney” to at least focus on bankruptcy, and not only when the economy tanks.
The Best Bankruptcy Lawyer should be… a Lawyer
Secondly, it goes without saying, but I’ll say it: you’re doing a once-in-a-lifetime professional service. Insist that the person performing it is licensed by your state bar. Don’t cut corners here by saving a few bucks with a bankruptcy paralegal. It can cost you a lot more in the long run if you lose your house, file the wrong chapter, or the case ends up getting dismissed.
There are even lawyer websites that brag about how awesome the paralegal is. You’re not looking for the best unlicensed petition preparer. You’re looking for the best bankruptcy attorney. If the website is touting a paralegal and not the, you know, bankruptcy lawyer, this is a clue this may not be the best bankruptcy lawyer.
Also, beware of paralegals who say they know as much as a lawyer. While this may be true, only an attorney can give legal advice. Even telling you which chapter to file under is legal advice, and the unauthorized practice of law. Do you want a shady unlicensed law practitioner doing your one-and-only bankruptcy? Probably not the best bankruptcy attorney if they’re not a lawyer.
One Price Does Not Fit All
Thirdly, when looking for the best bankruptcy lawyer, you want quality, not to be shoved through a mill. The “best” anything isn’t going to be the lowest price who makes it up on volume. McDonald’s is good, but maybe it’s not the best burger. A bankruptcy lawyer ad for $x99 for anyone and everyone is maybe not the best. Who would bid the same price for something that takes very little work and something that would take a lot?
If someone asked you to rake their yard, would you charge everyone the same price? Or would you maybe want to know a few things about their yard, like if it’s tiny with a pine tree or a huge orchard with maple trees? Bankruptcy law is a tad bit more complicated than raking leaves. There are more than a few things a good bankruptcy lawyer should ask to be in the running for “best bankruptcy lawyer.”
An accurate price means getting to know you
Expect the bankruptcy attorney to want to spend time with you. To get to know you, and your situation. Then, only after he or she understands everything in fairly good detail, they should give you a price. Anyone advertising all comers for the same dirt cheap price is either going to give you a higher price once they got you. Or they’ll treat you like a commodity at the lawyer factory. Either way, maybe not the best bankruptcy attorney. You are not a commodity. Don’t expect a price on the phone, let the bankruptcy lawyer get to know you, and don’t expect to be treated like a burger at a fast-food restaurant. You’re not one-size-fits-all. You’re unique. Expect to be treated that way.
Getting to Know you Means Taking Time
Fourthly, the best bankruptcy attorney should ask questions. As we read above, every situation is different. The bid for an easy job should be different than the one for a hard job. But to know that, any service provider — but especially a bankruptcy attorney — should take the time to ask questions. They need to spend time learning about your assets, your debts, how recently you incurred them, your income, your budget, changes to your income in the past months, gifts and insider payments. And we didn’t even talk about lawsuits, tax refunds, payments you’ve made to friends and family yet. To get to know you means asking questions.
You don’t deserve rushing, but explanations and answers
Explaining things also takes time. Even with the most completed intake form (and if you actually do complete it, you’re my new favorite client), I can explain all your options, pros and cons, bankruptcy both chapters, the means test, and how the process works in no fewer than twenty minutes if I talk fast. And I can talk fast if we’re watching the clock. But truth is I’d rather not rush and explaining everything can easily take 30 minutes, often an hour. I guarantee people leave our consultations with peace of mind, with relief, hope and a good night’s sleep.
If an intake session only takes ten minutes, maybe this isn’t the best bankruptcy lawyer. A bankruptcy lawyer guaranteeing you qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy but didn’t ask about your income? Chances are they’re not the best bankruptcy attorney. When they’re rushing you off the phone because they have 45 other ten-minute calls to get through today, maybe you found a bankruptcy mill, and you deserve better.
They’ve helped lots of people
Fifthly, to be the best bankruptcy attorney, they should have experience. With experience, a bankruptcy lawyer would see all kinds of situations and challenges over time. You don’t want to be your lawyer’s guinea pig.
Yes, we were all new once. All attorneys need someone to trust them as their first client. Maybe that person will be the best bankruptcy lawyer after they’ve helped a thousand or two people. A new attorney, though, almost by definition, isn’t the best… yet.
Ask the attorney how many Chapter 7 cases they’ve done. The answer should have four-digits. If not, they may be a smart person. They may be a good attorney. They may even be a good bankruptcy attorney. But is this person the “best bankruptcy lawyer near me?” Probably not.
Don’t settle for less than a thousand total Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases, and at least a hundred Chapter 13 cases when considering the best bankruptcy attorney.
The Best Bankruptcy Lawyer Maybe Doesn’t Have 9 Offices
Look at the law firm’s website. How many offices does it have? If your bankruptcy attorney has multiple offices, it’s a sign that maybe it’s too big to give individual service and attention. Your personal bankruptcy deserves personal service. A law firm in 7 locations is likely a high-volume enterprise.
Where one person does intake. Another person does the signing. A third person will be at your 341(a) Meeting of Creditors. Which one is your bankruptcy attorney? They all are, and none of them is. The massive law firm is. And you deserve better. A law firm small enough to have one or maybe two attorneys in one office, maybe two. Where your attorney is your attorney, and they know you, your situation, your circumstances.
The Best Bankruptcy Lawyer Should Explain Things Well
So far, we’ve established that someone who is the best bankruptcy should do only bankruptcy, and not be a dabbler. That they should be big enough to have done lots of cases, but small enough that they’re going to take time with you. That they should get to know you before giving a price. And take the time to get to know you, and explain things.
But none of that is any good if they can’t explain things well, in a way that makes sense to you. So, the best bankruptcy attorney should be able to explain things to you in a way that you understand. Bankruptcy is a mysterious field of the law, not well understood by many. You want a bankruptcy lawyer who can explain things to you in a way that connects with you, in simple terms with analogies. I wrote this website for that very purpose.
Bankruptcy is also a very gut-wrenching and emotional decision.
You want a bankruptcy attorney who listens to you, your feelings, and can empathize with you. Some attorneys judge people, making them feel like criminals. Their personalities are cold and unfeeling. Others put their heart and soul into helping people. When you interview your potential bankruptcy lawyer, can you feel their compassion and caring? If so, you may have found maybe not the “best bankruptcy attorney,” but the best bankruptcy attorney for you.
Involved in the Legal Community
Can we agree that for someone to be the best bankruptcy lawyer that they’re involved in the legal community? Not just staying on top of their continuing legal education credits; we all must do that. Volunteering to improve the profession. Serving on boards of directors. Volunteering their time to serve other lawyers in professional organizations. Providing feedback and time working with judges and trustees on committees. Ask your potential bankruptcy attorney about what organizations they aren’t just members of, but serve in as an officer or some other capacity. It’s certainly possible to be a good bankruptcy attorney without that. However, volunteering time to improve the bankruptcy profession may be a sign of someone who is better, maybe best.
Go With Success
Finally, the best bankruptcy attorney should be experienced, but should have accomplishments under his or her belt. One accomplishment is having neighbors in their community vote them, literally, “best bankruptcy attorney.” But if a lawyer were fortunate to have that happen, that’s probably a good indication they’re the best bankruptcy attorney. And Los Angeles bankruptcy attorney Hale Antico has been blessed to have been voted Best Bankruptcy Attorney four times, the most recent in 2017.
Further, how does the bankruptcy lawyer compare against their peers? Are there actual statistics that measure lawyers in cold hard numbers? It turns out, there are. A bankruptcy judge in the district in which Los Angeles sits ran the numbers on successful Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases. The judge found the following:
Consumer bankruptcy filers under Chapter 13 in his division without an attorney succeeded 0% of the time.
Folks who filed Ch 13 bankruptcy petitions in the entire Central District of California (where Los Angeles is) with an attorney succeeded in only 3% of cases.
Nationally, the success rate of Chapter 13s is better, but still 33%.
But Los Angeles bankruptcy attorney Hale Antico filed Chapter 13 case during the most recent busy period in which 59% were successful. That’s double national average, and twenty times the average in the Los Angeles area. Cold hard numbers can tell you how an attorney compares to their peers, and if they’re better, or the best bankruptcy lawyer.
Chapter 13 Success Rates
The Best Bankruptcy Attorney Near Me
Summing up, when researching bankruptcy lawyers, find someone who does only bankruptcy, but doesn’t do so many of them that they’re part of a bankruptcy mill. Someone who is a bankruptcy lawyer, but also a bankruptcy lawyer. Stay away from fixed prices: you’re a person seeking a legal professional, not a carpet cleaner. Someone not part of a lawyer factory with tons of locations. Someone who gives personalized attention, and will be at your hearing. They can explain things in ways that connect with you. They take the time to learn your situation and explain things at the consultation. And where they have a track record of success.
Thanks for reading. Use this as a guide when you read lawyers’ websites and interview people to be your bankruptcy attorney. And while I don’t presume that I’m the best bankruptcy lawyer, I’m hopeful that perhaps I’m the best bankruptcy attorney… for you.