Bankruptcy Attorneys in Charlotte/Mecklenberg, NC
April 22, 2014 7:36 AM   Subscribe

We are currently saddled with an out-of-state mortgage that we cannot afford to pay.

We are attempting to short-sell the house, but at this point we are 20K under what we owe and are still getting no offers. I asked a friend who is a bankruptcy lawyer, and s/he said s/he usually recommends avoiding short sales entirely because of bits of the federal tax code (61 and 108, specifically) that mean we get spanked with taxes for the "income" of the difference between our mortgage amount and the amount the house finally sells for. I will also note that we cannot afford to pay all of our current expenses in addition to this mortgage, and are racking up credit card debt in the interim at a highly unsustainable rate.

So. We need a bankruptcy attorney for the state where we live (specifically one near Charlotte, NC) who can review our finances and tell us if we should continue to pursue the short sale or just bail and go for the foreclosure. Can anyone direct us to the Guy, locally speaking? I'm hesitant to just grab the first names off a Google search and would prefer some testimonials.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (5 answers total)
You're in NC, but where is the out-of-state mortgage? Maybe you want a lawyer with a connection to that state as well.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 7:47 AM on April 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

I wouldn't recommend Google. The North Carolina Bar Association has a referral service that can connect you with a bankruptcy attorney. You might also consider asking a moderator to add a throwaway address to this question, on the chance there might be someone reading who can offer a recommendation but doesn't want to advertise having gone through bankruptcy. Good luck.
posted by cribcage at 8:33 AM on April 22, 2014

If you don't get any better responses in-thread, here's what you should do:

Call up three local, experienced attorneys who do civil litigation but don't do bankruptcy and don't work at a firm that does bankruptcy.
Ask each of them to recommend three bankruptcy attorneys in your area.
Then you'll have nine names -- though in all likelihood you'll have closer to five and some repeats. The repeats are the ones you should think about calling.

Even in big cities, the legal world is small, and the three attorneys you call will, in all likelihood, know who is well-reputed.
posted by gauche at 8:46 AM on April 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

Is there a reason you haven't rented the house out? There are loads of decent real estate companies that can manage an out of state house for you.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:42 PM on April 22, 2014

You can definitely try Gauche's advice. It isn't bad advice. But it may be unrealistic. At least in the legal markets I'm familiar with (which doesn't include NC) most attorneys do not field reference calls from random strangers on an ongoing basis.

There are a few reasons for this. The first is practical: a good civil-litigation attorney, as Gauche suggests, is going to have a receptionist answering his or her calls, and so your request won't make it beyond the front desk. The receptionist might have a prepared list of firms to recommend, or might know an answer or two. But you won't get past the desk. That's partly why the receptionist is there, after all: to screen incoming traffic so the attorney can spend his or her time maximizing billable hours.

Second, it's likely you'll get the same answer I gave you above, to consult the bar association for a referral. It's the easiest thing for an attorney to do. It's also the safest. There are some nutty clients out there, as well as some bad attorneys, and nobody wants to be named in a malpractice suit simply because they provided a reference. (It has happened.) Moreover, many attorneys themselves participate in these bar referral services...which costs an annual fee. So nudging non-prospective clients in that direction is, in a sense, protecting your investment. To use an imprecise analogy, it's like cab drivers not stealing fares from the airport queue. If we're paying into the referral service, we want to encourage its use.

Last is a corollary, which is that if you do get a reference despite all that, it's just as likely to be for an attorney who has some working or personal relationship with the people you're asking. Put gently, the best known attorneys aren't always the best attorneys.

So again, it's not a bad idea in theory. You can definitely try it. What's to lose except a half-hour and a few local telephone calls? But there are a few reasons why it's probably not the cure-all that it might seem to a lay perspective. If we all happily handed out (three!) free references to anybody who rang our phone, that would be all we'd do some days. It's why the referral service exists.
posted by cribcage at 9:01 AM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

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