I imagine that choosing a bankruptcy lawyer must be very confusing. Some who have used bankruptcy lawyers are reluctant to discuss it with others. (We still receive a lot of business from referrals.) I came across an excellent article on the subject at Bankrate.com’s website called 5 must haves in a bankruptcy lawyer. I agree with most of the article and it provides some explanations from other attorneys about common areas of concern for clients.
Like many attorneys, we use a standard fee agreement for Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases. This serves for the majority of cases. The exact fee quote will be provided after consultation with an attorney about the debtor’s financial situation which will include a discussion of exemptions, the means test, some financial history and the debtors goals, priorities and concerns and the development of an appropriate plan for the client. If that plan includes the possibility of a bankruptcy filing, the debtor is provided with a written fee quote and an explanation of additional anticipated costs such as fees for credit counseling (required in individual or joint cases before the filing) and debtor education (required before discharge for individual and joint cases, except Chapter 11 cases.) If additional services have been agreed upon or the possibility is anciticipated, the contract may include a fee quote (flat fee), a retainer quote (billed against at a specified hourly rate) or an explanation of how the fees would be determined.
The standard fee agreement includes all of the services required for most bankruptcy cases. In addition to analyzing the debtors financial situation, the agreement includes preparation of the bankruptcy papers that need to be filed with the court. These include a petition, statements. schedules and typically a completed means test. This information provides a fairly complete summary of the debtors financial situation and is completed with the assistance of the client who is responsible for completing a questionnaire and providing copies of various documents reflecting their financial condition. We recommend and, in some instances, require that the debtor obtain a tri-merge report through our office. After the documents are completed, the debtor meets with an attorney and reviews the documents page by page before they are signed. Our office then electronically files the petition and other documents with the court. We will follow up with creditors to ensure compliance with the stay. An attorney from our office will attend with and represent the client at the 341 meeting or meeting of creditors. Our office will also discuss reaffirmation agreements provided to clients to assist in decisions regarding whether to reaffirm the debts.