Choosing an attorney to handle your New Jersey bankruptcy is not a simple and straightforward matter. This is a person you will be working with to help you get your life and financial affairs back in order. This is a person with whom you should be comfortable and have trust. In order to help you make this choice, I suggest you consider the following questions:
How Long Has the Attorney Been Handling Bankruptcy Matters?
Bankruptcy is a very complex and detail oriented practice area, especially since the changes implemented in 2005. Thus it is very important that the attorney has a lot of experience, so as to spot all of the key issues with your case. Over that time, he or she should have developed a strong reputation and rapport with the bankruptcy trustees, which can often ensure a smooth journey through the process.
It should also be a significant portion of their practice, and not just a sideline. With the bad economy many attorneys have started doing bankruptcies in order to keep their doors open. Be wary of these.
Does the Attorney Belong to Professional Organizations, such as the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys?
The law is constantly changing, and attorneys have to keep up on the latest. Membership in organizations like the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA) or the American Bankruptcy Institute can be a good sign that they are dedicated to being at the top of their craft.
Does His or Her Web Site Talk Solely About Bankruptcy?
Attorneys have web sites to get business. They want to get bankruptcy clients. However, your first question should be whether bankruptcy is the right solution for your situation. A law firm that talks about nothing but bankruptcy on its site may well be only interested in talking about it when you meet. Does the site have content about alternatives to bankruptcy?
Perhaps you just need someone to work out deals with creditors. Does the site have content about collection by creditors? Does the attorney have experience in negotiating with collection attorneys? The more alternatives discussed in the site, the more will be discussed when you meet.
If you have already made an appointment, were you requested to bring specific information to the meeting?
Determining whether bankruptcy is right for you involves a thorough and complete review of your financial situation and asking questions to which you may not have the answers if you go in cold. Thus a good bankruptcy attorney will send you, in advance, a packet of information and a list of items for you to bring with you to the meeting. In that way you will be better prepared for an intelligent discussion of your options.
When you call, does the attorney consult with you on the phone or insist you come in for an appointment?
This goes back to the previous question. When you call an attorney, he or she is most likely in the middle of something else that he dropped to answer your call. Thus his or her mind might not be completely on your case when you discuss it. Besides, would you want your case to be the one he stopped working on just to try and get someone else as a client?
Bankruptcy is something that should be discussed thoroughly, face to face, with all of the critical information at hand, and the lawyer's complete attention. You will get a much better legal opinion that way.
When you meet with the attorney, does he or she take the time to listen and gather information, or does he or she just give a sales pitch?
The meeting with the attorney is all about you! Never forget that! The attorney might interrupt you with questions, but the important thing is whether he or she is listening to the answers. Legal opinions should only be given once all of the facts are known, and the opinion/advice should also be all about you. It is about what's best for you, not the bankruptcy services that the attorney is selling.
Does the attorney have a follow-through plan for after bankruptcy to assist you in rebuilding your credit?
A fresh start in bankruptcy does not end with the discharge of your debt. You then have to rebuild your life. How do you re-establish credit? How do you work to get your expenses in line with your income so you haven't just dug another hole for yourself a few months after your case is over? Your bankruptcy attorney should have a plan for that as well.
All of these questions are important, and you should have satisfactory answers to all of them before you hire your lawyer. That way you will have the best chance of finding the right person to help you though this difficult time in your life.
If you have more questions about bankruptcy, then download my free book,Top Questions People Ask About Filing Bankruptcy in New Jersey.
If you live in Southern New Jersey and are considering bankruptcy, please call my office at 856-432-4113 or contact me through this site so that we may discuss your bankruptcy options. Feel free to ask me all the questions above, along with any others that you may have.