In times of financial crisis when professional legal advice is badly needed, choosing the RIGHT attorney is an important - and sometimes critical - decision. Consider the following points in making any decision to retain legal counsel:
1. Experience. Choose an experienced attorney who understands the law and the finer aspects of bankruptcy procedure. When you have a high fever, you certainly don't go to the podiatrist. In the same way, attorneys specialize in everything from criminal law to corporate mergers. Some attorneys obtain experience at the expense of their clients. Make sure you choose a seasoned bankruptcy attorney who understands the local rules, the Trustees' preferences, the local judge's rulings, and how to work with the local creditor attorneys.
2. Reputation. Choose an attorney with a record of success who has earned the respect of his colleagues. Since the work done by your bankruptcy attorney will have an impact on your financial life for years, it pays to choose an attorney with a record of successful bankruptcy filings.
3. Reasonable fees. Choose an attorney whose fees are fair. Attorney fees run the table from affordable to cost-prohibitive. Your bankruptcy attorney should work with you to establish a fair fee and provide you with a flexible payment plan. Like a good accountant, a good bankruptcy attorney can save you much more than you have to pay in fees. With good exemption planning, careful analysis of any transfer issues, and expert advice on how to handle different kinds of debts both before and after filing, a good bankruptcy attorney can save you a significant amount of money.
4. Law firm size. Choose an attorney who has the resources available - but can handle each case in a personal manner. Too large a firm may have more lawyers, but will each one have an intimate knowledge of your case - when such knowledge is needed and important.
5. Attorney-client relationship. The foundation of effective legal representation is an attorney-client relationship built on trust and respect. It is important that you feel comfortable with the attorney you choose, he will guide you through a very difficult period in your life. However, do not be blinded by former allegiances. The general practice lawyer down the street might be a great person, might have worked with you in the past, and might quote you a really good price, but that doesn't make him or her the best choice.
6. Free Consultation. An attorney who places his clients needs first will provide a free consultation. If an attorney insists on a consultation fee, look for another attorney.
7. Proximity. Proximity to your home is only one consideration when choosing a bankruptcy attorney. In today's electronic age, paperwork can be handled via mail, fax or E-mail. It's far more important that you choose an experienced, qualified attorney, than to choose an attorney because his office is down the street.
8. Willingness to answer questions. Choose an attorney who is receptive to your questions. You must understand the bankruptcy process before you decide to hire an attorney.
9. Credit Restoration. Choose an attorney who will help you rebuild your financial life. The attorney you choose should have the resources to help you dispute credit report errors and provide a list of bankruptcy friendly lenders. Your attorney ought to provide you with the tools necessary to execute your plan to rebuild your financial life.
10. Choose a local attorney who knows the system. Choosing an attorney from a national referral service may not provide the qualifications or experience which you need. Look for an attorney who specializes not only in the field of bankruptcy, but also in the geographical area. A local attorney - not one with a relationship to a referral source - is usually your best bet.
11. Local Bar Association. If you're confused, consult the Nebraska Bar Association - and then call around asking about experience, fees, and other concerns. A consultation is very important because this allows you to meet the attorney, who may represent you in one of the most important matters of your life --- before making any legal commitment.