You definitely want a good result in your bankruptcy case, but what will your relationship with your bankruptcy lawyer be like? What should you expect when you meet with the lawyer? Will it be scary or uncomfortable? Will the lawyer keep you informed and on track before and during the case? You deserve to know exactly what to expect.
An experienced bankruptcy specialist knows how to properly “handle” the relationship with a new client. This may be the first or the only serious interaction a consumer has ever had with a lawyer. At Bayer, Wishman & Leotta, we think that if more consumers know how they should be handled, then we would not hear as many bankruptcy horror stories as we do.
Let’s face it, if you know you are being properly guided through the preparation and filing of your case, you will have confidence that your bankruptcy will get you the result you seek. So let’s take a look at some things that you, as a client, should expect from your bankruptcy attorney. If you don’t see these things addressed when necessary by your lawyer, you might be headed for trouble. We hope you will notice a pattern of preparation and follow up that are crucial to a successful relationship with your lawyer.
This article is part of a series of articles in which I’ll walk you through what to expect in your client-lawyer relationship. In this first article, I’ll cover your initial contact with a bankruptcy lawyer.
“Expect to fill out some written materials before you meet with a lawyer.”
A good bankruptcy lawyer will have forms for you to fill in before you meet face to face. These forms will not be difficult. They will help you organize your thoughts and collect important information that will allow you and your attorney to make critical decisions about your case at the beginning of your relationship. If your lawyer fails to get the right information out of you, mistakes are likely. Your lawyer should be looking for “core information” (about your finances, your assets, your debts and key events that are important to planning your case.)
“Don’t expect to hire a lawyer over the phone.”
In some circumstances, you may get to speak with a bankruptcy lawyer by telephone before you meet. But don’t expect that chat to result in a lawyer-client agreement. The hiring of your lawyer must be done in writing—something you both sign. If your situation is an emergency, it’s possible to get quality advice over the telephone, but you’ll still have to meet with the lawyer at some point. And that lawyer will still need to look at your important documents.
“Do expect to meet with a lawyer, not a paralegal or the lawyers staff.”
I have warned consumers in the past about hiring the wrong kind of lawyer, especially the “cheapest one.” Take a look at my article on the fees charged by Los Angeles bankruptcy lawyers and the drastic differences you may find. Remember that you must meet with the lawyer that is responsible for your case! Only an experienced bankruptcy specialist, working directly with you, will understand how to develop your particular bankruptcy strategy. If you are only offered a meeting with a paralegal or staff member of the law firm, don’t stick around.
“Expect to give your lawyer copies of key documents.”
If your lawyer doesn’t insist on seeing copies of key documents, run for the hills. If you have a mortgage foreclosure, for example, your lawyer should insist on getting copies of the foreclosure notices from you. The same goes if you are being sued. Copies of court documents or a pending case against you may be important. These documents are likely to contain critical dates that will affect the timing of your bankruptcy case. If you expect to hire a good lawyer, expect that lawyer to insist on seeing the documents before he or she is hired.
“Expect your lawyer to keep you on track during your first meeting.”
Experienced bankruptcy lawyers show their expertise by getting through the first meeting very efficiently. They will quickly understand the “core information” about your case and get you moving quickly toward bankruptcy solutions that are available for your circumstances. This will help you feel better about your circumstances promptly instead of wallowing in the details of your financial hardships.
In the next article I’ll cover what you should expect after this first meeting with the lawyer.
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. Check us out on AllExperts.com.