How to Find an Affordable Bankruptcy Attorney
If you’re to the point where you’ve begun to research the process of selecting a bankruptcy attorney, you’ve no doubt already experienced a world of grief and turmoil over your financial situation.
The last thing you want to worry about when you’re already drowning in debt is how you’re going to come up with the money to cover the legal expenses of filing bankruptcy.
Regardless of your personal situation – and believe me, you’re not alone – I would really urge you not to stress over the cost of a good bankruptcy attorney.
Yes, you’re likely going to have to come up with some cash, but in the scope of things, and especially when compared to the total amount of debt you’re attempting to discharge, in the long term you’re going to be much better off if you focus on finding quality and competent attorney rather than just a cheap attorney.
Having said all that, here are some additional tips, resources, and ideas when it comes to making bankruptcy more affordable.
Low Income Bankruptcy Resources
The very first item on your list should be to find out if you qualify for free or reduced legal assistance based on your income levels.
Legal resources will vary from state to state. To begin your search, be sure to check out the state bankruptcy resource page links to your left. These pages contain a great deal of information specific to the bankruptcy process in your state.
In particular, you should be able to find a link to your state’s legal service resources for low-income residents.
Another resource you might want to consult is an approved credit counseling provider for your state.
Since the current bankruptcy laws in the U.S. require anyone filing personal bankruptcy to have completed an approved credit counseling course within six months of petitioning for bankruptcy, the approved credit counselor you choose to work with might be able to provide advice or even referrals to affordable attorneys in your area.
(To find an approved credit counselor for your area, please check out the state resource links on the left side of this page.)
Don’t overlook one of the best resources of all – personal referrals.
Although it might not be the most comfortable conversation to broach with all your friends and acquaintances, you would probably be surprised at how many people you know have actually filed for bankruptcy themselves in the past.
If you do know of others – family, friends, co-workers – and you do feel comfortable doing so, by all means, ask them about their experiences. That goes for both the process itself as well as the specific attorney they used and the costs involved.
Contact Several Attorneys
I know – shopping for a bankruptcy lawyer is not like planning a birthday party. But it still needs to be done.
And whether you go the old-fashioned way and use a phone book or whether you use an online directory, it’s a good idea to contact at least a few legal practices before choosing.
Fees will vary by state and region. The advantage of contacting more than one attorney is that you will quickly learn the standard range that bankruptcy attorneys charge in your area.
Check with the Better Business Bureau
After you’ve narrowed your search down, don’t forget to take a couple of minutes and check out the Better Business Bureau for any red flags or unresolved complaints.
While this may not help you locate the attorney with the lowest fees, it may alert you to other issues that you otherwise wouldn’t be aware of.
A Reasonably Priced Attorney is Probably Worth It
Finally, just a reminder that you often get what you pay for. In fact, you should be very suspicious of any firm that promises legal fees that are “too good to be true” (unless this is part of a volunteer or nonprofit program you qualify for based on your income levels).
It could be that they’re only providing partial services (e.g. just preparing or filing paperwork on your behalf with no intention of actually representing you in any proceedings.
Or perhaps, it’s a guide just to get you in the door and an additional, unadvertised fee will kick in later.
Remember, a bankruptcy attorney, as with any lawyer, is YOUR advocate. You need to trust this person to serve your best interests. And a reasonably priced bankruptcy attorney may be in a better position to do that than one who’s primary attraction is that he or she is cheaper than everyone else.