If you decide to get legal representation for your bankruptcy, you’ll need to hire a bankruptcy lawyer. Here’s how to find bankruptcy attorneys.
A bankruptcy lawyer is a regular lawyer who specializes in bankruptcy. Usually that means that the lawyer’s practice is focused exclusively on bankruptcy, or perhaps on bankruptcy and a few other discrete areas. It also usually means the lawyer has some experience representing clients in bankruptcy.
You are almost always better off getting help from an experienced bankruptcy lawyer, rather than from a general practitioner or a lawyer who focuses on some other area of the law.
There are several ways to find bankruptcy lawyers:
Recommendations from friends, family, and colleagues. The single best way to find a good bankruptcy lawyer is to get referrals from people you know and trust. Ask your friends, family members, and colleagues at work.
Referrals from other lawyers. If you have used a lawyer for another matter, ask the lawyer if he or she know of any good bankruptcy attorneys.
Group legal plans. Does your employer provide a group legal plan or do you pay a monthly fee for a legal plan? If so, check to see if the plan covers bankruptcies. At the very least, this should be your first stop for legal advice. Then if you’re not happy with the competence or experience of the attorneys on the plan, you can always look elsewhere.
County or state bar lawyer-referral panels. Many state bar or county bar associations maintain a lawyer-referral directory. Often you can find these on the Internet. Or you can call your local bar association. Usually, these directories will match you up with several attorneys that practice in your geographical area and have experience with your type of legal issue. Most of these associations do not screen the lawyers for competence or complaints, so don’t assume the referrals you get will be good finds. It’s up to you to check out their credentials and experience.
Internet directories. Many private companies provide lists of bankruptcy lawyers on the Internet. As with the bar association directories, don’t assume that a lawyer on any given directory has been screened for competence. However, some directories will provide you with information about the lawyer (albeit often self-reported), like years of experience, practice areas, philosophy on working with clients, fees, and more. A few places to start include:
Nonprofit legal services. If you are low-income, you might qualify for help from a nonprofit legal services organization. Many legal aid organizations are partially funded by the federal Legal Services Corporation. Others get funding exclusively from private foundations. Most legal aid offices do not provide bankruptcy representation, although a few do. Some won’t represent you, but will guide you through the process on your own.
Law school legal clinics. Many law schools sponsor legal clinics and provide free legal advice to consumers. Some legal clinics have the same income requirements as nonprofit legal services organizations. Others may provide information and services to people with slightly higher incomes.
To learn more about using a bankruptcy lawyer, including choosing the right lawyer for your case and what to expect in terms of fees, see Getting Bankruptcy Help.