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Meeting with a Bankruptcy Lawyer

5 August 2010

If you’re having trouble paying your bills, you’re already stressed enough without worrying about meeting with a lawyer.  Knowing what to expect can ease your stress.All legal practices are different, but in my office we have a standard set of procedures that allows me to exchange enough information with a potential client to know whether bankruptcy is a good option for you and to establish an attorney/client relationship with you if it is.  At the same time, since the changes of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (BAPCPA), I always have to be sure I fulfill my duties to the Court as a Debt Relief Agency.

By the time of your appointment, you’ll know what documents you’ll need to file a bankruptcy and hopefully, you can bring enough with you that I can give you specific advice for your financial situation.  Before meeting with me, my assistant will hand new clients an introductory letter and the four disclosures Congress requires us to provide, as well as get copies of photo ID and proof of social security number, so I can assure the Court I know I’m representing the right people.  Finally, she’ll run a check to see if and when you’ve ever filed bankruptcy before.

What to Expect:

  • Expect to have your fears addressed and your questions answered. In an initial consultation, my first goal is to reassure people who really don’t want to be in my office.  I try to start by answering questions and finding out what your immediate fears are and what you know, believe or fear about bankruptcy.  Then, I need to help you determine whether bankruptcy is really the best option for you.  If we think it is, I’ll need to understand enough about your situation to see what chapter will provide the best relief and what work I’ll have to do in terms of pleadings or documentation, so that I can know what to charge.

  • Expect to have the steps you’ll need to take to get relief explained. If you believe you wish to file for bankruptcy, I’ll try to cover the bankruptcy process, what your rights and responsibilities are, who the players are and what steps you’ll need to take to get to the discharge you need.  At the same time, I will be documenting my files and providing you with enough copies of disclosures, etc. to let you know what you need to do and to fulfill my duties.

  • Expect to get your advice from an attorney. Increasingly, it is the practice in large bankruptcy practices to have clients meet briefly with an attorney before being shuffled off to a paralegal, who will be doing the bulk of the work on the file.  This is not a good practice and you should expect to have your questions answered and your file prepared by an attorney experienced in bankruptcy.  In my office, my very capable assistant will answer general questions, but seldom touches the file before the petition is complete and the case is ready for filing.

  • Expect to be treated with respect. Most bankruptcy lawyers really do care passionately about their clients’ rights and believe strongly that bankruptcy is an important tool to help people and families in crisis  get their lives back to normal.  I have a lot to consider when I meet with a client, what your options are, what pressures you’re facing.  What I’m not doing is judging you.  I know you are in my office because things didn’t go according to plan.  Whether it’s medical problems, income loss, business failure, divorce, family crisis or just honest bad decision making, bankruptcy exists to give you a fresh start and put your debts behind you.  I’m proud every day that I can help people through a painful time in their lives.  You should expect any attorney you work with to treat you that way.