If you have decided that bankruptcy is the best option to resolve your financial challenges, you may have discovered that there is no shortage of bankruptcy attorneys in New Jersey. The obvious question then becomes—how do you find the one that will best meet your needs? It’s a very important decision, as your future financial well-being may depend on it.
The Key Factors When Looking for a Bankruptcy Lawyer
When evaluating potential bankruptcy counsel, you want to examine three important components:
- What is the quality of the attorney’s work?
- What level of customer service can you expect?
- To a lesser extent, how much will it cost you?
It’s extremely important that consider more than one bankruptcy attorney. You may like the first one you contact, and you may end up hiring that person. But you need to have a comparison to know that you are getting the most skill and customer service for the most reasonable price.
Evaluating the Attorney’s Skill Level
You should look at your initial meeting with an attorney as being an interview for both parties. Pay attention to the types of questions the attorney asks you—how detailed are they? Some of the questions you want to ask:
- How many bankruptcies has the attorney handled? How many years has the attorney been practicing in the bankruptcy courts? Is bankruptcy the focus of the attorney’s practice?
- Is the lawyer listed in public or professional directories? What is the attorney’s rating with Avvo or other services?
- What certifications does the lawyer have? The American Board of Certification issues these certifications to those who pass a qualifying examination, remain in good ethical standing, and maintain at least 20 hours per year of continuing legal education in the field for which certification is given. (Steven R. Neuner is now certified as a Business Bankruptcy Specialist and has held this certification for 20 years)
Determining How You Will Be Treated
The most skilled lawyer in the world can still leave you stressed out or anxious if the level of customer service is lacking. How interested does the attorney seem in your case? Does the lawyer spend time personally asking you questions or are you simply given a form to complete? In addition, how easy was it to get through to the attorney? If you left a message, how quickly did the attorney return your call?
Confirming the Cost of Bankruptcy
If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, it’s not generally in your best interests to simply look for the least expensive bankruptcy counsel. There is a lot at stake and your biggest concern should be value for what you need to spend, not the total cost. You need to have confidence in the other two factors—the attorney’s competence level and willingness to provide a high level of customer service—otherwise, you may save money with a “bargain basement” firm or “bankruptcy mill”, but you will increase your stress and anxiety, and you may end up not getting the outcome you want or need. This is a field where the cost of mistakes can be high.
Confirm with the attorney whether you will pay a “target” or flat fee for your bankruptcy, or whether you will be billed by the hour. “Target” or flat fees are generally available and allow you to reasonably predict your costs. If your case is complex or the time and complications are not predictable, this may not be advisable. But most responsible attorneys can and should explain how they arrive at their fees.
Also, do not forget costs. Filing a bankruptcy and doing it properly includes costs for filing fees and two required courses. A careful attorney will want to get a judgment search, a credit report and other “due diligence” to make sure that nothing important is missed. These costs are generally not great. You do not want to end up being “low balled”. Ask what costs are included.
Contact Neuner & Ventura, LLP
At Neuner & Ventura, LLP, we provide a free initial consultation to every client. We do, however, reserve the right to charge a fee to review any work done by another attorney. To set up an appointment, call our office at (856) 596-2828 or send us an e-mail. Evening and weekend appointments are available upon request.