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What qualities should I look for in a bankruptcy attorney?

Choosing a bankruptcy attorney requires careful review

Bankruptcy can be an intimidating legal process for anyone not familiar with its requirements, and particularly difficult for those feeling the anxiety of financial difficulties. At the very least, people in these circumstances should feel comfortable with the attorney they choose to represent them in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

That is the starting point for anyone reviewing an attorney's suitability as the lawyer who will explain the facts of a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 case, guide them through the steps of their legal action and keep clients apprised of the documentation needed and the status of the case.

"This is the person who will be handling your crucial financial information, so it's vital they relay everything that happens in a timely manner," writes Arizona bankruptcy attorney Christopher Ariano for the National Bankruptcy Forum. "If you have questions or concerns, they should be able to respond quickly with lucid answers."

One way to gauge the ability of attorneys to get the job done well is to check their education and experience in this specialized area of law. It's important to find a bankruptcy lawyer, rather than one who practices general civil law. Having experience and a track record of success in this specialty are important considerations. They show an attorney has been through such proceedings enough to see similar issues facing debtors and to help them make the right decisions about their cases.

For individuals who have no experience in hiring an attorney, there are several ways to get help. Local chapters of the American Bar Association usually have referral services. In addition, many legal websites, such as Nolo.com, outline lawyers' backgrounds, specialty areas and whether there have been disciplinary actions taken against them by state boards. Other websites, including LawFirms.com, include articles so consumers can become acquainted with bankruptcy issues and make an informed decision.

FilingBankruptcyOnline advises those considering bankruptcy to steer clear of lawyers who do not offer a free initial consultation, which is typically provided by reputable attorneys. In addition, attorneys should be very clear about how much they charge and the overall cost of a bankruptcy case, including court and mandatory credit counseling fees. A clear contract that outlines the lawyer's services is advisable.

People filing bankruptcy should also consider whether they are comfortable hiring someone who works for a large law firm that has many resources or a small legal practice, which may offer more individualized attention.

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