If you do a quick search for bankruptcy attorney in South Florida on Google you will find dozens of firms saying they are experienced in bankruptcy law. If you decide to call and schedule an appointment with one of them, here are some questions to ask them when you meet them:
How much of the firm’s work is bankruptcy law?
If you see a website of a law firm that says they practice bankruptcy, family law, probate, personal injury, criminal, immigration, etc. etc. then you really should know that the bankruptcy practice of the firm is probably very limited. Ask how many cases the attorney has filed (monthly, yearly, lifetime), you may see a firm say they have 30 years of experience but if they only do 1 or 2 bankruptcy cases a year their 30 years of experience is really worthless.
Who is going to handle my case?
You may walk into a firm and meet attorney X and if you sign with that firm you may never see that attorney again, perhaps the majority of the work in your case and your communication might be only with a paralegal or secretary. If you are paying thousands of dollars to file for bankruptcy, then I suggest you actually meet and communicate with the bankruptcy attorney rather than his or her staff.
Do I even need to file for bankruptcy?
Ask an attorney if bankruptcy is right for you, it may not necessarily be. You may be able to negotiate a settlement with your debts, do a short-sale or a deed in lieu and keep yourself out of bankruptcy entirely. Have the attorney explain the differences between the bankruptcy options available to you as well as the non-bankruptcy options.
How will bankruptcy affect me in a negative way?
Make sure that the attorney goes over with you the consequences that are incurred when one files for bankruptcy. If an attorney informs you that there are no consequences then you should run away. Furthermore an attorney should explain the process of rebuilding your credit after filing for bankruptcy.
How will bankruptcy affect me in a positive way?
Ask the attorney what benefits you will be receiving if you file for bankruptcy. Make sure the attorney can tell you which debts will be wiped out in the bankruptcy and which debts (if any) will survive.
How much do you charge?
The first question that any debtor will ask a bankruptcy attorney is how much they charge to file for bankruptcy in Florida. Typically a Chapter 7 bankruptcy will run between $1500-$2000 for non-complicated cases. Be very weary of attorneys who advertise a very low price as they are just trying to get people in the door and/or their advertised price doesn’t include things such as the filing fee $300, credit report fee, reaffirmations, or numerous other miscellaneous charges that an attorney can add.
Will you be attending the court hearing with me and will you prepare me?
Every debtor in a bankruptcy case needs to attend bankruptcy court one time for a short hearing called a meeting of the creditors. The debtor will be accompanied by a bankruptcy attorney who will be there to assist them in answering questions. Some firms send a designated person to court with you, and chances are it will be a person you have not met and maybe even someone who is not familiar with your case. Furthermore ask the attorney how they will proceed in preparing you for the hearing. Some firms will just file your case and meet you at the hearing, without preparing you in any way.
Remember that just because you had a free consultation with a bankruptcy attorney doesn’t mean you need to sign a retainer agreement with them on the same visit. You may want to visit more than one bankruptcy attorney to see how the answer the questions listed above, maybe you communicate better with one than the others. Remember the filing of a bankruptcy is a decision that should be made after careful consideration and professional advice. Never make the decision to hire a bankruptcy lawyer strictly because their price is lower than another attorney. You will usually get what you pay for.
If you are thinking of filing for bankruptcy and would like to schedule a free consultation with a local bankruptcy attorney then please contact Shmucher Law, PL by calling 305.741.5553 or 954.309.5559. We offer free consultations in any of our office locations including Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Plantation, and Sunrise Florida.