Sometimes clients ask exactly the right question—one that lawyers hate to answer. You should be bold enough to ask any bankruptcy lawyer this question, even if the dollar figures may vary from region to region. Here’s the question that a prospective client asked me recently:
This may sound like a dumb question, but may I ask why I found a big difference in the fees quoted among so many attorneys in Los Angeles? I was quoted anywhere from the low side of $1,000 to the high side of $3,800 for a Chapter 7 case.
First, I believe there are no dumb questions, only dumb lawyers. The best answer I can give is that lawyers do charge different fees because there are often big differences between us. For example, in our firm the fees are set so that we can deliver the same quality of legal service to you that we would want for ourselves, as if we were a client instead of you.
If you are looking for a bankruptcy lawyer, it will be worth your time to “check” around before you write a “check.” For example, if you were buying a car, you might look up the automotive ratings in Consumer Reports Magazine. Some cars score high, some very low. Some cars are made like junk; and some are built extremely well. Expensive cars usually (but not always) outperform cheap ones when it comes to safety, comfort and reliability. A cheap car may just get you where you’re going, but it might also break down or even rollover and crash before performing as promised.
Lawyers with the lowest fees will generally have the lowest level of skill and may treat their clients with disregard if not downright contempt. In fact, the client might never even meet the lawyer. In some cases it’s typical for the client to have no important communications with an actual lawyer—and instead the client only interacts with office “staff.”
You can very easily prove this for yourself. Please go to AllExperts.com and look at the questions I get on this free advice site. I have personally answered more than 1,000 questions for this site. I do not get paid for doing this.
Take the time to read some of the questions and answers. Many of the questions just break my heart when I see what bad legal representation the client gets.
A huge number of these questions come from people after they already filed bankruptcy BECAUSE they gave a check to a bad lawyer that can’t answer their questions or that has simply abandoned them. I wonder how many of these well meaning clients thought all lawyers are the same so they hired the cheapest lawyer they could find.
So here are my suggestions for you if you find yourself comparing the fees you’ve been quoted by different lawyers:
- Do a Google search on the lawyer’s name and see what pops up. Try this with my firm, Bayer, Wishman & Leotta. We welcome you to check our record and compare the results we get for clients with any other lawyer that you might consider in the Los Angeles basin.
- In your search and interview process, ask and consider if the lawyer is a recognized expert in the California bankruptcy field? Does the news media seek out the opinions of this lawyer?
- Check a lawyer’s record on an objective website like Avvo.com.
- Ask how long the lawyer has been practicing bankruptcy law specifically. Does the lawyer handle other types of cases? In a large urban area like Los Angeles, quality bankruptcy lawyers devote their entire practice to bankruptcy. You do not want to trust your finances with an inexperienced or part time bankruptcy lawyer.
- You will be best served by a Certified Specialist in bankruptcy. The Certification process in our area is handled by The California State Bar. Ask the lawyer if he or she is a Certified Specialist. If not, the lawyer’s claims of “expertise” should be given no weight.
Again, the fees in our firm are set so that we can deliver you with the same quality of legal service that we would want to have for ourselves. At Bayer, Wishman & Leotta, we charge only what we think is necessary to get the job done while giving you a “smooth, comfortable ride” through the legal process.
Bayer, Wishman & Leotta is a full service bankruptcy firm. We have offices in Downtown Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley and Long Beach. Our attorneys are Certified Specialists in consumer and small business bankruptcy and you may reach us at (800) 477-3111.