I’ve never used an attorney before, what do I need to know?
There are a few qualities to look for when selecting an attorney to help you with your financial situation.
The most important first step is to be sure you are meeting with an attorney, and not a paralegal or assistant. The attorney needs to know the facts of your situation from you, not hear it second-hand from an assistant. You are paying for the work and advice of a practicing attorney. Not his or her staff assistants. If you never or rarely see your attorney, you are not getting the experience you deserve.
Second: Check the attorney’s experience level. Certifications and endorsements are nice, but these do not measure the attorney’s effectiveness in handling your case. How many actual years has the attorney represented clients in the bankruptcy court? It’s like asking how many surgeries the surgeon has performed. You want an attorney who has proven and successful case experience. Ask your attorney for this information. You deserve to know. Your financial welfare is at stake.
Professionalism is also important: Do they return calls? How courteous are they? Are they respectful? Are you receiving personalized attention or do you feel like you are just a number?
Personality: Do they focus on you, not them? Do they discuss the pros and cons of available solutions or present you with just a single option? Do you feel they have your best interests in mind? Are they easy to talk with, or do they use terms you don’t understand, and they never explain? Do you trust them?
A free consultation is important because it gives you an opportunity to meet the attorney face-to-face, and see how you feel about his or her level of expertise and ability to talk with you in easy to understand terms, not just legal jargon. Most attorney fees are competitive so it’s not about price shopping. It’s about getting the best legal representation for which you are paying.
When you meet with an attorney for your initial consultation you may have some paperwork that you want to bring along, especially papers or letters from creditors that you want to discuss.
Caution: Some law firms ask potential clients to bring financial information, credit reports, and completed forms to the initial consultation. They “assume” you will be hiring them to represent you before you even meet them for the first time. Not so fast!
Remember, you choose who you “hire” based on how comfortable you feel, and how confident you are that he/she is ethical, professional, experienced, and above all, acting in your best interest.