If you’re considering filing for bankruptcy, then obviously money is not something you possess in great abundance. There is no tougher field of law than bankruptcy when it comes to addressing attorney’s fees and costs. I’m not insensitive to your concerns, and I’ve prepared this frank and candid FAQ sheet to discuss the aspects of bankruptcy costs.
Why should I hire an attorney at all? Can’t I file bankruptcy on my own (pro se)?
You are certainly allowed to file a pro se bankruptcy and represent yourself. However, it is extremely difficult for a layman to complete the bankruptcy petition and schedules correctly. This is especially true of exemption planning (Schedule C) and the Means Test (Form B22A or Form B22C). As with most fields of law, trying to figure these forms out on your own is nearly impossible because of the terms of art that appear on these forms. Legal jargon exists not to confuse you, but because it has very specific definitions designed to close loopholes, reduce abuse, and protect the parties involved. Attorneys have the training necessary to translate these terms correctly. Further, the forms and statutes are not necessarily going to tell you about the ramifications of certain aspects of your case, nor will they be able to advise you which chapter of bankruptcy is appropriate for you.
I understand the value of having an attorney – but I’m bankrupt! Can you do this pro bono?
We couldn’t exist to help you if we did all of our work for free, as we have our own expenses to maintain. There are direct costs associated with the bankruptcy, such as the filing fee, office supplies, postage, and travel to court. In addition, we have our operating expenses to maintain. There’s not an alternate source of funds to reimburse our expenses, so we are left to charge and collect reasonable fees from the client for our services.
And remember, the amount of money you will pay to file a bankruptcy is a mere pittance compared to the money you will save once you have received your bankruptcy discharge.
I understand you can’t do it for free, but why must all fees be paid prior to filing my case?
The same stay and discharge you receive in your bankruptcy which protects you from your other creditors also prohibits us from accepting/collecting the balance of our fees from you. The exception to this is in Chapter 13 which allows for reasonable fee-splitting, and we collect a certain portion of the fees from the Trustee.
What tools can you give me to help me afford the bankruptcy?
I offer flexible installment plans with no set minimum payment. As a rule, you are instructed to stop paying all unsecured creditors once you have decided to proceed with bankruptcy – if you have remained current up until now, that will free-up some money in your budget. And a lot of people use their tax refunds as a quick way to get their bankruptcy paid off.
I found a cheaper attorney. Why should I hire you?
You get what you pay for. I hate clichés, but this one is so true. If your only criteria for hiring an attorney is cost, then you should hire the cheaper attorney. But beware of what you’re getting. Ethically, I’m prohibited from comparing my services to those of another professional, but let me outline some of perks you get if you hire me.
For my price, you are getting an attorney who has practiced [nothing but] bankruptcy law since 2006. That might not seem like a long time, but the first two years of my career were with a high-volume, national law firm. In a very short period of time, I had counseled thousands of individuals with diverse financial circumstances in bankruptcy, and rapidly gathered a large amount of experience doing so.
You are getting an ethical attorney with an established reputation among creditors, trustees, and judges. In establishing good relationships, respect, and trust with these parties, I make the bankruptcy process as smooth as possible for my clients. Of course, no attorney can ever guarantee a result or guarantee that there will never be a problem with your case. But by going with a higher quality attorney, you reduce the likelihood of problems which might not be addressed by a discount lawyer.
You are also getting incredible value in the Document Retrieval System. The vast majority of bankruptcy lawyers have no system in place, and require you to furnish all your own documents, credit reports, and arrange your own counseling courses. This can be incredibly costly and inconvenient for someone who is already stressed out from their financial problems. With the DRS, we eliminate the possibility of you obtaining wrong or incomplete documents, saving you time, money, and headache. And for the few law firms out there who do offer comparable products, rest assured that you get more documents for less money through my DRS.
Saving money is a good thing. Finding the grocery store with the cheapest milk and bread is good. Finding a store with the cheapest garbage bags and laundry detergent is good. But not all things are created equal. You get what you pay for. You wouldn’t go to a discount doctor for open-heart surgery. Why would you want to put your financial future in the hands of a discount lawyer?