Bankruptcy is serious with lasting impacts. There is no escaping that reality. Most do not approach it lightly and without considerable contemplation. It is prudent to seek legal counsel to navigate the complicated process and best maximize advantages, while minimizing disadvantages.
Bankruptcy is expensive
Legal counsel charges a premium fee for the commodity of billable time or at least a flat fee for legal services, which can be expensive. For a potential debtor facing uphill financial challenges, legal fees can be significant. Therefore, it is worthwhile to prepare thoroughly (and “off the clock”) before any meeting with counsel to make sure the consultation proceeds as efficiently and productively as possible.
Goals of bankruptcy representation
At the end of the day, the prospective bankruptcy debtor’s goal is to obtain the most worthwhile and helpful information possible, while minimizing costs of obtaining legal advice. After all, the debtor does not want to leave bankruptcy counsel’s office frustrated, confused and having more uncertainty than when she arrived at the lawyer’s offices.
Prepare for the initial consultation
The following non-exhaustive list includes potential questions and areas of concern to consider discussing with bankruptcy counsel at an initial consultation:
- Should debtor file bankruptcy?
- Are there options to filing bankruptcy?
- When should debtor file?
- How many bankruptcy cases has counsel handled?
- What portion of counsel’s practice is devoted to debtor representation?
- Does the lawyer represent creditors, debtors or both?
- What are the chief areas of concern the lawyer sees in debtor’s case?
- What will the bankruptcy process be like?
- How long will the bankruptcy take?
- What will be required of debtor?
- Is debtor eligible to file?
- Should the bankruptcy be filed jointly?
- What are the court fees and costs for filing?
- What are the legal fees for filing?
- Is there a way to waive court fees?
- Is there a payment plan for attorneys’ fees?
- Who will work on debtor’s case?
- Would counsel consider doing debtor’s bankruptcy for a flat fee?
- Is there a fee agreement?
- Is a contingency fee possible?
- What is counsel’s hourly fee?
- What are the estimated billable hours for this case?
- Which chapter of bankruptcy should be filed?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages to filing?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages to filing one chapter of bankruptcy versus another?
- Does counsel require the payment of an advanced fee or retainer?
- Are unused legal fees and/or costs returned to clients?
- What documents does debtor need to compile?
- What information does debtor need to compile?
- What can debtor expect at hearings?
- What will be the impact of the bankruptcy on debtor’s credit report?
- What property can debtor keep?
- What property will debtor likely lose?
- What role will the bankruptcy trustee have?
- What will the bankruptcy trustee require from debtor?