Questions to Ask
Questions to ask when choosing a Bankruptcy lawyer:
Are you Certified as a Specialist in Consumer Bankruptcy Law by the American Board of Certification?
The American Board of Certification (ABC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the public and improving the quality of the bankruptcy law bars. ABC certification serves the public by allowing potential clients to make an informed decision in choosing bankruptcy and creditor’s rights counsel. In addition, ABC certification encourages attorneys to strive toward excellence and recognizes those attorneys who have met the rigorous ABC standards. Most communities have attorneys who have been certified as a specialist in Consumer Bankruptcy Law by passing an exam on the law showing that they have spent a certain amount of time on different bankruptcy. A certified attorney is then required to renew his/her certification by showing a maintenance of the requirements every three years. A list of attorneys certified in Consumer Bankruptcy Law can be found at www.abcworld.org.
How many years have you been doing Bankruptcy work?
There is no question that experience improves a person’s skill in any task. While bankruptcy is usually not extremely complex, an experienced attorney simply has faced more issues and is usually better able to anticipate and deal with problems that may arise.
How many Bankruptcy proceedings have you participated in?
An attorney who considers bankruptcy the main part of his/her practice is more likely to keep up with developments and changes in bankruptcy law. Logically, the more cases one has participated in, the more experience and knowledge he/she has gained in the field of bankruptcy.
How many national Bankruptcy seminars do you attend annually?
Bankruptcy, like all aspects of law, is constantly changing. There are numerous organizations which put on seminars, conferences and conventions for bankruptcy lawyers. Attendance at these meetings allows a bankruptcy attorney to keep up with the law and interact with and learn from others who can express fresh ideas on helping people deal with financial difficulties.
Are you a member of any national professional organizations?
Membership in professional organizations allows an attorney to stay on top of changes in bankruptcy laws and procedures. Many organizations issue regular newsletters and reports which keep track of court decisions around the country. Today, even more important, these organizations have created internet locations which provide immediate news and bankruptcy “chat” formats for bankruptcy lawyers to interact to exchange ideas and deal with common problems. Many of these organizations host web sites which provide information to the general public. Visit: www.abi.org, www.NABT.com, and www.NACTT.org.
Are you the attorney who is going to interview me, and are you going to be the attorney who is going to be with me at my Bankruptcy hearing?
Bankruptcy is usually a stressful process. Often, you will reach a level of comfort with the attorney after having met with him and discuss your financial difficulties. The continuity of having that same lawyer then sit with you at your bankruptcy hearing might be important to you.
Can I schedule an appointment to see you if I have a question or problem?
It is important to have access to the bankruptcy attorney. Problems sometimes arise which require a visit to the attorney. Usually a short visit will result in the attorney dealing with a bill collector who keeps calling after a bankruptcy is filed, a forgotten creditor may need to be added, or a Reaffirmation may need to be signed on a car loan. It is important that the client be able to make an appointment to visit the bankruptcy attorney.
Does the attorney meet with the client, one-on-one, to discuss the financial problems?
You should be able to receive an appointment where you can meet with the attorney to privately discuss your financial problems, face to face.
Have you ever participated in a Bankruptcy Appeal to the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel or the U.S. Court of Appeals?
Bankruptcy cases are appealed to either the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel or the United States District Court. You may have an issue where you lose and need to appeal, or, you win and the other side appeals. Having chosen an attorney with experience in the appeals process will be of great value if an appeal takes place.
Do you complete the appropriate Bankruptcy forms after I provide a list of creditors, or do I have to fill out forms and bring them, or mail them, to you?
It will be easier to prepare the documents needed for a bankruptcy filing if the attorney asks you to provide the list of creditors and he/she then sits with you to complete the forms required by the court. Having the attorney participate from the beginning in the paperwork also insures that the proper information is submitted.
Am I interviewed by a licensed attorney or a non-attorney para-legal?
If the interview is held by a licensed attorney, then that attorney can give legal advice along the way and answer the legal questions. Additionally, this would eliminate the duplication and waste of time which would occur where some questions are answered and some have to be re-asked later to the attorney.
Does the Bankruptcy Attorney handle both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases?
A person who has financial difficulties usually wants to know his/her options under both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Filing under one chapter may sometimes be preferable to filing under the other. At the meeting with the attorney, an analysis of the benefits of both would normally be discussed. It would be advantageous to meet with an attorney who has experience in filing under both chapters.
Will I be given a firm price once I have met with the Attorney?
As with any consumer transaction, one should ask for and receive a firm price for the cost of bankruptcy services during the initial meeting with the attorney. Prices will vary and the consumer should not be shy about asking for the cost of services and the cost of any ancillary services that might be needed in the bankruptcy process.