Many people considering filing for personal bankruptcy in New York have not hired a lawyer before and are not sure how to select a lawyer. Since they are not familiar with lawyers and how to evaluate and compare one lawyer with another, they focus on the one factor that they understand – the cost. While cost is certainly one factor to consider when choosing a lawyer, it is not the only factor.
1. Bankruptcy Is More Complex Due to the 2005 Changes in the Bankruptcy Law.
In 2005 as a result of credit card company lobbying the Bankruptcy Code was extensively changed by Congress. These changed created new duties for bankruptcy attorneys and made representation of consumer debtors in bankruptcy cases much more complicated than it was before. As a result, those lawyers who only dabbled in bankruptcy stopped taking new bankruptcy cases. Those lawyers who specialized in bankruptcy cases raised their rates to account for the increased cost and complexity of cases after the 2005 changes.
2. Bankruptcy Attorneys All Know What Rates Are in Their Area.
The fees charged by bankruptcy attorneys are not a mystery. By law, all bankruptcy attorneys are required to publicly disclose their fees on a Statement of Compensation filed with the debtor’s bankruptcy petition. Because this information is publicly available it is generally known by experienced bankruptcy attorneys. Rates are periodically adjusted by most experienced bankruptcy lawyers to stay in line with what other experienced bankruptcy lawyers are charging.
If one attorney’s fees to handle a bankruptcy case are considerably lower than another that may reflect either a lack of knowledge and experience with bankruptcy law, or that he or she will only provide “bare bones” service.
3. What Should Be Included as Part of the Fee?
Someone seeking to hire a bankruptcy attorney should get a clear breakdown of fees and expenses. At Starr & Starr, PLLC, at our initial no obligation consultation we quote our clients a flat fee to handle their bankruptcy case that includes a clear breakdown of our legal fees and expenses. The legal fees are the lawyer’s fee to handle the case which includes a detailed interview with the client to gather the information and documentation needed to prepare the bankruptcy petition, preparation of the petition, preparation of the client for the meeting of creditors, representation of the client at the meeting of creditor, keeping the client advised regarding the status of his or her case, responding to status inquiries, monitoring the case for discharge, and advising the client of entry of the discharge order. In addition, at Starr & Starr, PLLC we provide all our clients with information – at no additional cost — once they have obtained their discharge about how to rebuild their credit,
Additional services, such as defense of an adversary proceeding (i.e., a lawsuit in a bankruptcy lawsuit brought by a creditor or the trustee) is additional. In the majority of cases (approximately 95% of our cases) of all cases no additional services will be needed.
4. Factors to consider in selecting an attorney.
There are a number of factors that should be considered in selecting an attorney, including:
• Does he or she communicate effectively in language you can understand (not “legalese”
or technical jargon)
• Is he or she a good listener and attentive to your concerns or is he or she arrogant,
brusque or trying to “sell bankruptcy” to you.
• How much experience does he or she have as a lawyer (the longer the better)?
• Where did he or she gain his/her experience and training as a bankruptcy laywer?
• How much of his or her practice is devoted to bankruptcy law (we live in an age of
specialization – bankruptcy is too complex a subject for “dabblers”)?
• Does her or she have an established office and systems for communication, such as
receptionist or secretary, voice-mail, e-mail, fax machine.
• Is he or she a sole practitioner or does he or she have partners and/or associates who
can assist in the attorney work?
• Does he or she have malpractice insurance?
• Has he or she been the subject of professional discipline by any bar association or
lawyers regulatory body?
• Has he or she ever been sued for malpractice, and if so what was the outcome?
• Is he or she a member of any bankruptcy related organization or professional
We are confident at Starr & Starr, PLLC that we favorably compare with any experienced bankruptcy attorneys in New York under all of the criteria above. Please feel free to contact us at 888-867-8615 if you have any questions or to schedule a no obligation initial consultation.