Good questions to ask my Bankruptcy Lawyer in the morning?
September 11, 2009 10:24 PM   Subscribe

Questions to ask the bankruptcy lawyer in the morning to learn about the process AND to evaluate the lawyer's ability in bankruptcy.

Sorry for the late question. I am visiting a bankruptcy lawyer in the morning. Without judging my circunstances, can you please give me good questions to ask to determine if this is the lawyer I should choose IF I do go down this path. What should I ask them about? Their experience? Their fees? Timeframes? Options? Please help as I know little about this process, and I would like to know if this is a good lawyer for this process. I already know all advise you provide is not legal advice, most of you are not lawyers, and I will take everything as simply friendly advise. Thank you for your help!
posted by samuel1613 to Law & Government (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I would ask him questions about the procedures and experience then questions about the ramifications and outcomes of declaring bankruptcy. Have him detail, step by step, from the beginning what the process entails. What things can you and can you not do from this point forward. I think you will get a feel for his knowledge with that question. Also, ask him for references. What happens to you after your debts are discharged? Is he with you a year from now when you need advice or comfort? Ask him about his largest and smallest cases. What were the biggest mistakes in hindsight he or his clients have made? You could ask that by asking what lessons has he learned along the way. Certainly fees are important. How are the fees incorporated into the filing? What debts will be discharged and what ones will not? How does this affect your wife if you have one and her finances? Will it affect employment now or in the future when you apply for a new job. (They often do a credit check.) I would find out who his staff is and how will they be involved. Does he have a very organized assistant who will be holding your hand and following up with you throughout the process or is it just him?

These are just the first questions that come to mind late at night on a Friday. Good luck.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:12 AM on September 12, 2009

Bankruptcy is a fairly straightforward process, as long as you are not on the bubble of qualifying. I would ask your lawyer about fees, his experience, what to expect from the process, and repercussions in the future. You can pretty much find answers about the process and ramifications online, but how he explains them and what information he gives you will allow you to assess his abilities. You should ask him to explain the differences between filing for Chapter 13 vs. Chapter 7, and what he thinks would be best for your circumstances. Be prepared with ballpark figures of your debt and assets. You will need to give him a more detailed and accurate account of your finances if you file, but reasonably accurate estimates will help him assess your situation initially.

His experience and history with the court system your filing with is important. Many BK lawyers know the trustees who evaluate cases in their jurisdiction, and that can be helpful if there is anything complicated or unusual about your situation. If you want more anecdotal information or a personal perspective on the process, please feel free to email me (address is in my profile).
posted by katemcd at 12:57 AM on September 12, 2009

Excellent advice in this thread. I will add the following advice about hiring lawyers generally:

Check her disciplinary record through your state bar's web site. If it isn't spotless, walk away.

Look at experience out of law school (6 years or more) and also experience doing bankruptcy cases.

Look at her written work. Believe it or not, some lawyers file in court written work that has spelling errors, poor punctuation, bad word processor formatting, and other obvious problems. You do not want such a person working for you.

Do not limit yourself only to lawyers who advertise. Ask for some names from your state bar's lawyer referral service.
posted by profwhat at 6:04 AM on September 12, 2009

Consumer bankruptcy is pretty straightforward.

Prepare your own rough financial statements -- assets and liabilities, income and expenses. Be as specific as you can?

Ask him:

Should I file under Chapter 7, 11 or 13? (11 is unusual for consumers, but sometimes is required)?

What will happen to my unencumbered assets -- things I own that don't collateralize any debt?

What will happen to my encumbered assets -- houses, cars and other things that do collateralize debt?

What will happen to my secured debt (the debt related to those encumbered assets)?

What will happen to my unsecured debt?
posted by MattD at 6:07 AM on September 12, 2009

Even though there are a lot of specific laws about how to conduct a bankruptcy, there are still a lot of "local customs." Questions like, "How many duplicates of each form do you file?" and "What kind of arithmetic mistake would cause the judge to dismiss your case?" can have completely different answers from one jurisdiction to the next. You want someone with local experience who has a sense of how things are done in your jurisdiction.

As the previous posters have said, it helps to bring a rough statement of you assets, liabilities, and cash flow, so that the attorney can quickly see where you stand financially.

Good luck.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 7:57 AM on September 12, 2009

You can use this site to find out if he's certified or not, or to find another lawyer who is.

Your state's bar association may also certify people as bankruptcy specialists; you should contact them to see if you can get a listing.
posted by Aizkolari at 9:39 PM on September 12, 2009

Response by poster: If anyone is following this, here's what I asked:
What debts will be discharged, what will not be?
What are the step by step procedures and outcome?
What about my wifes new home business, business equipment, computers, vehicle?
What about job applications? What do you know about security clearances and how those are affected?
What are the ramifications of declaring bankruptcy? What happens to you after your debts are discharged? What happens to our individual credit scores?
What is the experience of the actual lawyer representing us, how many on the staff will work our case, how many people will we need to work with?
What is the court experience of the lawyer? Does he know the people in the jurisdiction who will evaluate our case? What is his relationship with the courts?
How do we follow up with our lawyer? How can we make sure the process s staying on track?
What can we do and not do from this point forward? What are the mistakes people make?
How does the office support us long term? 6 months out, 1 year out? Rebuilding credit? Creating a budget?
What is bad about the competition? What is good about them?
Does the lawyer have a clean disciplinary record?
Thank you all for your help in this difficult time.
posted by samuel1613 at 3:11 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

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