Most everyone who hires a bankruptcy attorney to help solve their financial problems understands that an initial consultation and interview is the first step of the process, but few understand that an interview with a bankruptcy lawyer is a two-way street. The first part of the interview should really be controlled by the client and not the attorney. The second part of the interview comes only after the client has decided that the attorney is the right choice.
Gathering Financial Documentation
Preparing for the interview involves writing down a list of relevant questions to ask the attorney and gathering financial documentation. To get the most out of an interview, a potential client should provide the attorney with as many details as possible. The financial documentation that should be brought to the interview includes the following:
- Paystubs for the last month and tax returns from the previous two years
- Listing of assets owned, including stocks and financial accounts
- Deeds to homes owned and mortgage documentation
- Details about all vehicles owned, including year, make, model, options, mileage and loan or lease information
- A recent bill from each creditor, a credit report or a list of creditors and amounts owed
- Unpaid tax notices
- Details concerning all secured loans
- Documentation about any legal judgments or lawsuits
- Business information, such as tax returns, profit and loss statements and balance sheets
Disclose Your Financial Situation
In addition to this documentation, it is beneficial to disclose to the attorney any of the following financial situations:
- Co-signed loans
- Pending lawsuits
- Property or other assets in a trust
- Pending inheritance
Questions to Ask a Bankruptcy Attorney
An interview with an attorney should begin with the potential client asking questions concerning a few basic details. Samples of such questions are as follows:
- Which law school did you attend, and when did you graduate?
- What is your experience in practicing bankruptcy law?
- How many bankruptcy clients do you work with each year?
- Do you have any other legal specialties? If so, what are they, and how much time is devoted to each?
- To which bar associations and professional organizations do you belong?
Additional Questions About Case Management
Once it has been decided that the attorney is the most qualified to handle the bankruptcy case, additional questions can be asked about case management. Case management refers to what the attorney does outside the presence of the client. Understanding how the case is handled will help to avoid confusion in the future. Questions to ask concerning case management are as follows:
- Are you available to take the case immediately?
- Will you be handling the case, or will it be in the hands of an associate?
- If I have any questions about my case, whom do I contact?
- How, and at what times, may I contact you or your team?
- Do you appear with me in court and before the trustee?
- How will you keep me updated about the progress of the case?
- What information will progress reports include?
Additional Questions About Legal Fees
The final set of questions to ask concerns legal fees. It is important to understand the details surrounding flat fees and hourly fees. Fee-based questions to ask include the following:
- Which billing method do you use?
- What is included in a flat fee?
- What is your hourly rate? How many hours is the average bankruptcy case?
- Will there be other fees or charges involved?
- When is payment due? Do you offer a payment plan?
The final segment of an interview with a bankruptcy attorney should include a review of the documentation and a discussion of the available options. In some cases, bankruptcy will not be in the best interest of the client. When bankruptcy is the most beneficial course of action, the exact type of bankruptcy will still have to be decided.
Important Disclaimer: The information discussed above and throughout this website should not be relied upon to make any decisions without first speaking to a bankruptcy attorney. There are many intricate rules of law governing bankruptcy with many exceptions to the general rules that could change the advice given by an attorney based on the differing facts in each person’s special set of circumstances. THEREFORE, it is important to discuss any information contained in this website with one of our attorneys before taking any action or refraining from taking any action.