Finding an experienced bankruptcy attorney with a good reputation can be difficult for people unfamiliar with the legal system.

Bankruptcy law and practice is difficult and full of traps, so you want to make sure the attorney you choose is experienced. You also want an attorney who is committed to helping his or her clients by providing attentive, quality service. Some attorneys who advertise themselves as providing bankruptcy services are either inexperienced or interested only in generating a volume business. Using the yellow pages, newspaper advertisements or television or radio advertisements to find an attorney may in some cases be a mistake.

1. One way to locate a good attorney is word of mouth. If you know someone who recently filed bankruptcy and feel comfortable talking with them, ask them about their experience.

2. Contact a bankruptcy attorney at a major law firm in the area and ask for a recommendation. Senior attorneys at the large firms know who handles consumer cases in their area competently and usually are more than happy to recommend one or more attorneys for your to call. If you don’t know the major firms in your area by reputation, try using the Martindale Hubbell on-line directory.

3. Local bar associations often have referral services that can help you locate an attorney. These services generally require that the attorney specialize in bankruptcy and maintain malpractice insurance. Sometimes local bar associations operate programs to assist low income individuals to obtain low cost or free legal services. Check the yellow pages under “Lawyer Referral Services.”

4. Organizations like the American Bankruptcy Institute and the Commercial Law League of America operate certification programs and can refer you to a certified attorney in your area. While most competent bankruptcy attorneys do not bother obtaining certification, you are guaranteed that an attorney having certification is an experienced and knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney.

Once you locate an attorney, call and ask for a initial consultation. Most bankruptcy attorneys don’t charge for the first meeting. When you meet the attorney ask questions before hiring him or her. Make sure that you are comfortable with the attorney and feel comfortable asking questions. The attorney should explain the bankruptcy process in a way you understand. Confirm that the attorney carries malpractice insurance. Make sure that you will be dealing with an attorney, not a paralegal or secretary. Many attorneys use paralegals to help prepare the bankruptcy papers, but your contact during the initial meetings should be with an attorney. If you are not completely comfortable with the lawyer, do not feel pressured into hiring him or her. Find someone else.

See also…

Consumer Bankruptcy – Forum