Does Cheaper Mean Better?
It's a fact that here, in the Detroit area of Michigan, a person seeking legal representation for a potential bankruptcy filing has many options available to them. Classifieds websites daily feature advertisements by attorneys offering extremely low fees for bankruptcy representation. It is completely logical that financially burdened people considering pursuing something like bankruptcy would look for the best rate possible. However, hiring an attorney is not always best done on price alone. There are other factors to consider.
What to Look For Beyond Bankruptcy Attorney Fees
Bankruptcy is a specialized area of legal practice that requires a dedicated and prolonged level of focus. It is an area of practice that, when executed properly, requires a robust working relationship between attorney and client. Thus, choosing a bankruptcy attorney based solely on price and geography ("this attorney is closer to my house than that attorney") do not provide a clear picture as to how well your bankruptcy case will progress. When choosing a bankruptcy attorney, the most important factor you should consider is customer service—in combination with experience. It is simple enough to find a bankruptcy attorney online who will charge you only a few hundred dollars for what you may think is "an easy case," but only an experienced bankruptcy attorney can tell you whether your case is as easy as you think it may be and then, if he or she tells you that it is not, advise you as to the best course of action. You want to look at the amount of time that the attorney you sit and meet with will actually spend with you and with your file. Many "low-cost" bankruptcy attorneys operate their practices on an assembly line model: file as many cases as possible each month, spend as little valuable attorney time as possible on each, keep staffing overhead low. In practices such as this, you may never personally see the attorney you met with at your initial consultation ever again. Instead, your petition is drafted by unlicensed clerical staff, and your 341 Meeting of Creditors and other hearings may be attended only be a low-experience associate lawyer or, worse, an "appearance attorney" hired for $75 to show up at your hearing who has never read your file before blindly calling your name out in the hearing waiting area. When a Chapter 7 Trustee is threatening to seize your property or when your Chapter 13 Trustee is threatening to dismiss your case because of some defect in your filing, it takes an experienced attorney to deal with the issues. But beyond that, it takes an attorney with whom you have a good working relationship to resolve such issues. You want and need to be able to answer "YES!" to all of these questions:
- Did your attorney work with you to assemble the proper documentation and information prior to filing?
- Did your attorney explain the nature of the bankruptcy estate and the powers of the Trustees to you?
- Is your attorney someone who will answer the phone and talk to you personally when a problem arises?
- Is your attorney keeping you informed of things that happen in your case or leaving it to you to contact him or her to ask for updates?
- Is the attorney who appears at your 341 and other bankruptcy hearings the same attorney you met at your initial consultation and/or the same attorney whose name appears on your petition?
Price cannot answer these questions for you. Geography certainly cannot. It is not true to say that every attorney offering "a great deal" is inexperienced. It is, however, definitely not true to say that just because the price is right the service will be as well. Experience alone, even, is not a good indication that an attorney is right for you: there are many firms in the Detroit area in which the "name" attorney carries many years or even decades of experience—but, beyond meeting that attorney at your initial consultation, you will never see or hear from him or her again, only less-skilled, less-experienced associates, paralegals, and legal assistants instead.
Why You Shouldn't Hire a Cheap Bankruptcy Attorney: The Bottom Line
When you shop for a bankruptcy attorney, you must ensure that your attorney knows what he or she is doing as your assets and your discharge are at stake. But shop for service. This can be an all-too rare commodity, and you should shop for an attorney who is going to give you the attention that you deserve. Attorney John Hilla of The Hilla Law Firm, PLLC personally handles 100% of all work on all of his clients' files. When you phone The Hilla Law Firm, PLLC, you will get your attorney on the phone, and you will have your emails responded to in a timely manner by your attorney. Personal, customer service is our mission. If you are a Michigan resident and would like to explore your options for a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy with an experienced Michigan bankruptcy attorney, please contact us at (866) 674-2317 or click the button below to schedule a free, initial consultation.
If you enjoyed reading "Why You Shouldn't Hire a Cheap Bankruptcy Attorney," please browse our other articles on our main Michigan Bankruptcy Blog.