This isn’t a post about choosing the right bankruptcy lawyer.
But here in New York City, most bankruptcy firms do offer some manner of free consultation. It’s a chance to review your case. It’s also a chance for you and the lawyer to find out if you’ll be comfortable working together.
But if you don’t ask the right questions during your free consultation you may miss out on some opportunities.
Questions About Your Unique Situation
When you go to a free consultation make sure to come with all your financial paperwork in hand. This will give the lawyers the opportunity to really understand your financial situation and any bumps we may encounter on the road.
Have I done anything that would be a problem for my bankruptcy?
It’s remarkably easy to do things which could cause your bankruptcy case to have real problems. Even to do things which seem fraudulent.
It’s important to go into bankruptcy absolutely sure you haven’t made any transfers that could be considered fraudulent, and that you haven’t done anything which makes it seem you favor one creditor over another.
It’s not a bad idea to call this information to the attention of any lawyer you’re seriously thinking about hiring as well. Make sure we see anything that could be potentially dodgy.
How much of my property is exempt?
In Chapter 13, non-exempt property can make your payment plan a lot more burdensome.
Exemptions also play a big role in the form of bankruptcy you choose.
What form of bankruptcy do I qualify for?
You should spend some time going through your income and budget so the lawyer can determine if you pass the means test. If you do, you’ll be eligible for Chapter 7, though it may not be the best choice.
You are eligible for Chapter 13 as long as you have a regular, reliable source of income.
So which do you choose?
It depends on your goals. If you’re trying to keep a car from being repossessed, a house from being foreclosed upon, or both, Chapter 13 may be your best option. But not always. If the car and the house are exempt then you can safely file Chapter 7.
See why you wanna ask some questions?
What should I avoid doing once I file for bankruptcy?
Just as you can do some things prior to filing which could create problems for your case, you can also do some things after you file that can create big trouble.
For example, did you know saying anything to a creditor that might be construed as threatening could get you accused of extortion, even if all you were “threatening” was a refusal to do business again in the future? You might not like it if a creditor challenges your bankruptcy, but they have the right to do so. And this is just one of the many ways you can blunder into hot water if you’re not careful.
Make sure you walk out of the consultation with the full “what not to do” list.
Questions About The Lawyer
As mentioned, your free consultation is a good time to find out if you and your lawyer work well together. So it pays to ask some good questions here as well.
How long have you been a bankruptcy lawyer?
Bankruptcy can throw a lot more curveballs than people believe. Sure, everyone has to start somewhere, but if you are dealing with a rookie lawyer you should at least make sure they’re reporting to someone more experienced.
How do you get paid, and what will paying you look like?
This is the last thing you should be anxious about, so make sure you get it all clear before you leave the office.
Who will be spending the most time on the case?
Some firms push the bulk of the work off onto paralegals, while supervising from afar. This isn’t the lawyer you want.
The lawyer you meet with should be the one working your case, period. It’s fine if they get assistance from paralegals, but it should be just that: assistance. Ideally, you’ll work with someone who gives you one-on-one time and shows you the way forward.
And if you happen to like what you hear? There’s no reason you shouldn’t move forward then and there.
Want to talk to me? Schedule your free consultation today to get started.