One of the first questions many clients ask is, “What is your fee?”
This is a fair question. Some attorneys charge a minimum flat rate of $1200 or more for all types of cases regardless of the level of difficulty. The truth is, some cases are complex, but most attorneys should be able to represent the simpler cases in less time. The fee should be based on the facts and circumstances of each case.
On a related note, be sure to ask your attorney whether your case is likely to require additional legal fees beyond the flat rate. Your fee agreement should address these fees. Some attorneys bill at an hourly rate for any non-covered matters. Most cases can be handled for a single flat fee without additional charges.
How many cases have you filed?
This is a question many people fail to ask but it is important to consider. If an attorney has filed 500+ cases, you can probably conclude that the attorney would never reach that number if the attorney was providing inadequate representation. Some attorneys may allow you to view their PACER account which is a government run website that tracks the number of cases the attorney has represented.
You should ask the attorney to review the means tests forms with you.
If the attorney advises you that you do not qualify for a chapter 7 based on income, ask the attorney to explain how this conclusion was made. The means test is complex, however, an attorney should explain each section in laymen’s terms.
If you are filing a chapter 13, ask the attorney how your monthly plan payment was calculated.
Does the attorney handle both chapter 7 and chapter 13 cases?
It is possible in some cases that a chapter 7 should be converted to a chapter 13 or vice versa. In some rare cases, issues may arise after the case is filed that warrant a conversion. Your attorney should explain the likelihood of this happening in your case.
Does the attorney specialize in bankruptcy?
While it is not critical that your attorney specialize solely in bankruptcy law, most small law firms focus on one or two areas of the law. The bankruptcy laws are complex. Preferably the lawyer will focus in an area of law that intersects with bankruptcy law such as business law.
Will you have direct access to your attorney?
Some of the larger firms depend on paralegals to handle most of the communications with clients. When it comes to bankruptcy, most of your questions will involve some type of legal advice. You should have your attorney’s direct email and phone extension.