At the height of the Great Recession in 2009, more than 1.4 million people filed for bankruptcy protection. As the American economy struggled to regain its footing, that number actually increased the following year. Nearly 1.6 million citizens filed for protection in federal courts in 2010, according to statistics released by the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts.
Though filings have declined of late, tens of millions of Americans are in constant danger of being overwhelmed by their debts. Not surprisingly, lawyers who work in this field are in high demand. In this article, we will discuss exactly what these legal professionals do and how they can save you from losing everything.
But before we begin, nobody wants to file for bankruptcy. Although it is quite common, filing is an incredibly unpleasant process. It is also a public admission of failure, which is why few Americans do it willingly.
Why Contact An Attorney?
Because the U.S. Bankruptcy Code is incredibly complicated, people that are considering filing for protection should call a qualified bankruptcy attorney. Yes, a person can represent himself in court, but it is seldom a good idea. Attorneys spend years studying the dense language of the U.S. tax code before they stand up in court. A neophyte cannot possibly compete. It is also important to note that if you make a single mistake on your petition or you file it incorrectly, your case could be summarily dismissed.
What To Look For In A Bankruptcy Attorney
For starters, the lawyer should be considerate enough to offer a free consultation. After all, you are filing for protection because you can’t pay your bills. Paying consultation fees on top of what you will be charged for your case really is a waste. Fortunately, most of the top attorneys in the field offer initial meetings for free. It is also best to speak with more than one legal professional before you make your decision.
The single most important consideration when searching for a bankruptcy attorney is experience. In other words, he or she should specialize in bankruptcy law. As we mentioned, the code that governs this area of legal practice is extremely complicated and an attorney who does not specialize in it may not be able to compete with those that do. It is also important to contact a professional in your area, since different states and regions may have different laws.
An experienced legal advisor should also be a great negotiator. Since most of these cases are settled, it is important to ask about a prospective lawyer’s success in negotiating favorable terms with specific examples.
Last but not least, it is important to consider the hourly rate. Because most of the cases take time, clients can end up owing a fortune if the lawyer charges a high rate. Therefore, it is always a good idea to ask for a rough cost estimate before you agree to anything. If you can afford the fee and the lawyer seems to know his or her stuff, you may have found your match.