Bankruptcy lawyers specialize in bankruptcy cases. When seeking legal representation in bankruptcy, you'll want to look for an experienced bankruptcy lawyer, not a general practitioner. Not only does bankruptcy require understanding how many principles interrelate, making a mistake can be costly. Most lawyers won't accept a bankruptcy matter unless they practice bankruptcy law regularly.
Here are some suggestions for finding the best bankruptcy lawyer for your job.
Knowing someone who had a good experience with a bankruptcy lawyer is often your best source. Call that lawyer first. Your lawyer might know a good bankruptcy lawyer, as well. Or, if a family member or a friend used a lawyer in a nonbankruptcy matter, ask that lawyer if they would recommend a bankruptcy attorney.
If you're a member of a plan that provides free or low-cost legal assistance and the plan covers bankruptcies, make that your first stop in looking for a lawyer.
Most county bar associations will give you the names of bankruptcy attorneys who practice in your area. Keep in mind that bar associations don't screen the lawyers. It's up to you to check out the credentials and experience of the person to whom the bar association refers you.
You can also find lists of bankruptcy lawyers online. A useful directory will provide information about the lawyer, such as the types of cases they handle, their philosophy on representing clients, and typical fees. One place to start is Nolo's lawyer directory, at www.nolo.com/lawyers. Also, check out www.nacba.org, a site that provides contact information for members of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys.
Legal Aid offices offer legal assistance in many areas. A few offices do bankruptcies, although most do not. The federal Legal Services Corporation partially funds Legal Aid, and it's intended for low-income people. It's more likely for a Chapter 7 filer to find help. Few Chapter 13 bankruptcy filers will qualify.
Learn about the differences between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.
Many law schools sponsor legal clinics and provide free legal advice to consumers. Some legal clinics have the same income requirements as Legal Aid; others offer free services to low- and moderate-income people.
When looking for a bankruptcy lawyer, follow these guidelines.