Once you have made the decision to at least talk with an attorney or lawyer about the prospect of bankruptcy, then it becomes important to find the right attorney to help guide you. Here are a few tips that I think are important in finding the right attorney to talk with.
If possible, ask friends or family in the community where you live if they have ever had any experiences in talking with or being represented by a bankruptcy attorney. If this is not practical, or you don’t feel comfortable doing this, you may want to talk to an attorney in the community that you know or has represented you or a family member with another legal matter. Chances are that attorney may not handle bankruptcy matters, but most will know of the right attorney to refer you to assist you with bankruptcy. It is very common for attorneys that practice in one area to know who is the best attorney in another area of law that they do not practice in. They almost always want to be able to steer you in the right direction.
Also, you may want to check either on the internet or the yellow pages of your local phone directory. Most attorneys that handle cases primarily in one particular area of law, such as bankruptcy, will want consumers to know that and will advertise or make that known either through a website or yellow pages advertisements. The internet may be the more up to date place to check, as studies have shown that most folks find out about services now through websites as opposed to the yellow pages.
You may want to know if the attorney is Board Certified in Consumer Bankruptcy Law by the American Board of Certification. This organization is the only certification group in the United States that give board certification in bankruptcy law. Generally, an attorney that has taken the steps needed to obtain certification will have a deep knowledge of bankruptcy law and how it can assist you. Also, you may want to know if the attorney is a member of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys. This voluntary professional association is the largest group to assist in the professional development of lawyers that primarily represent consumers seeking relief under the bankruptcy law. This group has two meetings per year where attorneys discuss new and changing areas of the law and discuss developing ways to assist their clients. Again, generally, if an attorney is a member of this group, he or she has taken a special interest in staying current on legal issues to best represent their clients.
Finally, when you finally meet with the attorney, ask them how many cases they typically handle per month. This will give you a good indication of their experience level and how they may best help you. Just as when deciding on a surgeon, you would not want an attorney that only handles 1 or 2 bankruptcy cases every few months. It would most likely be best to have someone who appears in court regularly and has the broad experience to assist you.
These are some general guidelines to use when searching for a bankruptcy attorney. We will discuss more in upcoming posts.