Many people may be searching for a bankruptcy lawyer to represent them in their potential chapter 7 or chapter 13 bankruptcy. Finding the right lawyer may be a tricky decision as every lawyer offers different services and charges different fees for the work they perform.
Do I Really Need a Lawyer?
The first thing to consider is do you really need a lawyer to file my bankruptcy? Would a document preparer do as well? That all depends on the situation surrounding your case. The more complex your case is, the more necessary a lawyer becomes. Also, remember that a document preparer cannot give you any legal advice. If you want actual legal advice, you must seek out a licensed attorney. At Jim Gaudiosi, Attorney at Law, Jim is a licensed bankruptcy lawyer. Jim Gaudiosi may also refer you to a legal document preparer if your case can be done with just such a document preparer. Some things you may want to consider while you are making your decision are:
- What assets do I own and what is the value of each asset? High-value assets need to be protected in bankruptcy from the trustee. Only a lawyer can help you navigate the laws surrounding which assets can be protected and for how much equity. If you own a home or more than one car, look for an attorney.
- Who do I owe money to? This may be an important factor in any bankruptcy. Do you have non-dischargeable debt? Non-dischargeable means that the debt will not be forgiven by the court in your bankruptcy. Only a lawyer can give you proper advice on these situations.
- What have I done with money in the past year? Did you give any money or property away? Have you transferred the title to any assets to someone else? Have you paid back any creditors, friends or family members over the last twelve months? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, look for a lawyer. There may be some pitfalls to avoid if you have done something with money and debt that could be looked at negatively in your case.
- How much money do I make per year? Your annual salary including your spouse, if you are married, will be factored into the test to determine whether you qualify for chapter 7 or chapter 13. If you do not qualify for chapter 7, get a lawyer immediately. Chapter 13 is very complex and most laypersons have trouble understanding the law for completing a chapter 13 plan on their own.
There are many more questions that you might need to consider when deciding to file bankruptcy. If you are unsure about the need for a lawyer, Jim Gaudiosi will offer you a free consultation to help you determine your best course of action.
Assuming You Need a Lawyer, Which One is Right for You?
Finding a lawyer can be a personal decision. Many people will make their decision on price alone. Although Jim Gaudiosi has reasonable rates including payment plans, Jim does not recommend using price as the only factor when making your decision. Check into whether the lawyer charges a flat fee or hourly rate. A flat fee means that the fees paid include all costs and expenses and you will not be charged more after the work has been done. Typically, a flat rate lawyer earns the fees when you sign the contract and there may not be a refund if you change your mind about filing bankruptcy later. An hourly rate lawyer charges fees by the hour. Most lawyers who charge by the hour break down the hour into six-tenths, which means every six minutes of work performed moves the needle in what the lawyer is charging you. Many lawyers charge by the hour for chapter 13’s and ask for huge amounts of money to be put down for them to bill their time against those funds. Some lawyers charge a flat rate for both chapter 7 and chapter 13 work. For hourly charges, any money left over after the work is completed may be refunded back to you when your case ends. Jim Gaudiosi, Attorney at Law charges hourly rates for only bankruptcy litigation work in chapter 7 or chapter 13 cases.
Some people will meet with several lawyers before deciding on which one to choose. If you do decide to meet with more than one lawyer, make sure you tell each lawyer that you plan on meeting other attorneys or that you have already met with other attorneys. Lawyers have ethical duties and obligations, which prevent a lawyer from meeting with a potential client who has already hired another attorney. If you sign anything saying you are hiring one attorney, you must either cancel that agreement or tell another attorney’s that you have signed on with another lawyer prior to meeting with them. Even if you meet with more than one, get the information you need to make an informed decision before signing a contract to hire an attorney. Some attorney’s offices use hard-sell tactics or run “bankruptcy mills” where they continuously are running clients through their program. These types of firms offer less customer service and less personal contact with the actual lawyer. Keep in mind that only a lawyer should be meeting with you. Paralegals and other paraprofessionals cannot give you legal advice. If you are meeting with someone other than your lawyer, then you might not be getting the service or advice you are paying for. Be wary of these situations. At Jim Gaudiosi, Attorney at Law, Jim meets with each client from the consultation through to the end of the case. Jim’s staff may contact you for answers to questions or information related to your case but will not give you legal advice. Again, remember that a legal document preparer can give you no legal advice.
Find a Bankruptcy Lawyer You Can Trust
The lawyer you choose should be a good personal fit for you. If you meet a lawyer and you do not get a good feeling about the lawyer or the information you are receiving about bankruptcy, this person may not be the lawyer for you. Dig into the lawyer’s background as well. You can check the State Bar of Arizona as well at https://www.azbar.org/ to look up the lawyer. You can check to see if the lawyer has any prior disciplinary action or how long the lawyer has been practicing in Arizona. You can also check what other areas of the law the lawyer practices and whether the lawyer is certified as a bankruptcy specialist. Check into how many years the lawyer you choose has been working with bankruptcy clients or practicing bankruptcy law. These factors, while each one is not more important than the other, may help you find a lawyer you feel is the right fit for you. Jim Gaudiosi has been a licensed attorney for more than six years. He has been practicing bankruptcy law for the entire time and was a paralegal working in a bankruptcy law firm for three years prior to becoming an attorney.
Learn About The Bankruptcy Process
You can also check the U.S. Bankruptcy Court’s website at https://www.azb.uscourts.gov/content/phoenix for information about bankruptcy. This website will not help you find a lawyer, but it could give you some valuable information about the bankruptcy process. This website also offers a bankruptcy self-help center. The Self Help Center offers free or low-cost services to bankruptcy clients who are indigent. If you cannot afford either a lawyer or legal document preparer to help you with bankruptcy, check this center for help. Additionally, Jim Gaudiosi does not recommend going to any other website or Google search to find out information about bankruptcy. Laws vary from state to state and may even be decided by the federal laws controlling bankruptcy. Googling for answers may cause you a lot of problems if your case is not handled correctly. Call Jim Gaudiosi for an appointment to discuss your bankruptcy situation and get the correct advice.
Payment Plans and Fees
One final thing to consider is the amount of fees being charged by the lawyer and whether the lawyer offers any type of post-filing payment plan. Until recently, post-filing payment plans were frowned upon by the bankruptcy courts. This meant that consumer bankruptcy debtors were required to pay all legal fees upfront before their case could be filed. With the new rules that have emerged, bankruptcy lawyers can now charge fees or make payment plans after the bankruptcy has been filed. The fees charged for payment plan options may be higher than fees that are all paid upfront. However, these payment plans allow bankruptcy filers who could not manage to pay for lawyer assistance to now be able to manage the fees over time.
Need expert bankruptcy advice or services?
Jim Gaudiosi, Attorney at Law has payment options, which include an option for you to be able to pay zero dollars upfront. Payments may be collected post-filing for a period of twelve months. Jim Gaudiosi also has other payment options for those who do not need or want to go on a monthly plan. Contact us here or call us at (623) 777-4760 now to schedule a free bankruptcy consultation for help with your case.