By Lloyd Nolan
When someone makes the difficult decision to contact a Bankruptcy lawyer, they are under a great deal of financial and emotional distress. The typical client is concerned about his or her financial resources and the costs of legal representation. While this is a valid concern, price should not be your only consideration when choosing a bankruptcy professional.
As with any professional service, it is often “more costly” to go with the cut-rate, discount provider. A bankruptcy will affect every aspect of your financial situation and your ability to obtain credit for years to come. It is important that your case be carefully prepared and thoroughly examined by a dedicated and experienced bankruptcy attorney. This is not a matter to be handled by an inexperienced attorney or a non-descript bankruptcy factory located somewhere in a strip-mall.
I have handled bankruptcy cases for over 25 years and I have represented hundreds of individuals. Among the common problems and mistakes I have seen made by inexperienced lawyers and discount bankruptcy firms are the following:
- Failure to properly claim exemptions, which can result in the loss of a car, house, bank account or other assets.
- Inaccurate or incomplete information, which can result in additional court costs and attorney’s fees. In extreme cases, the Court may dismiss a bankruptcy or deny a discharge. In extreme cases, criminal prosecution may result.
- Failure to properly time the filing of the bankruptcy so as to avoid the loss of tax refunds, insurance benefits, or other assets.
- Not choosing the proper Chapter (7 or 13) for maximum benefit to the client.
- Not advising clients about other options that might enable them to manage their debt without filing bankruptcy.
- Not treating clients with dignity and respect. This includes lawyers who fail to show up on time for hearings, miss hearings all together or who fail to make adequate preparation for hearings – including preparing the client.
The number of “bankruptcy lawyers” has no doubt doubled, or even tripled, in recent years. Some are recent graduates who have bee unable to find a job and are forced to go into business for themselves. Others are general practice lawyers attempting to make up for lost business in other areas. Bankruptcy mills advertise low fees to get the business in the door and pursue a volume practice. All of these factors tend to diminish professionalism. Bankruptcy is a serious matter and the choice of an attorney is an important decision. Price should not be your only consideration.
Lloyd Nolan is an experienced bankruptcy lawyer in the St. Louis Metropolitan area and a frequent contributing author to the Carson Law Firm Virtual Coffee Break. His office is located at 225 S. Meramec Avenue, Suite 512, Clayton, Missouri 63105 and he can be contacted at (314) 725-1880.