If you hire a bankruptcy attorney, usually he or she will provide legal advice and handle your case from start to finish. Below, we discuss some of the most common types of services you can expect from your bankruptcy lawyer. (Learn more about what to look for in a bankruptcy attorney.)
What to Expect From Your Bankruptcy Attorney
In general, your retainer agreement (the contract you and your attorney sign) will outline the exact scope of the services your bankruptcy attorney will provide. In addition to what's outlined in the retainer agreement, you should expect the following of your bankruptcy lawyer.
Competent Legal Advice
Your attorney’s job is to provide you with competent legal advice. If your attorney believes that bankruptcy is in your best interest, he or she should advise you about:
- the type of bankruptcy you should file (learn more about Chapter 7 bankruptcy and Chapter 13 bankruptcy)
- how you can use bankruptcy to achieve your financial goals
- what you can expect during the bankruptcy process
- what you can do to make the process easier, and
- whether your case has any difficulties or risks you should be aware of.
If you have any other questions during the process, you should expect your attorney to answer your questions and return your calls or emails in a timely manner.
Ability to Handle Your Bankruptcy
To successfully guide you through the bankruptcy process, an attorney must be familiar with federal bankruptcy laws, local court rules and procedures, and the bankruptcy trustees in your area.
In general, the difficulty of your bankruptcy will depend on:
- whether you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, and
- the individual facts of your case.
When you hire an attorney to file your bankruptcy, you should expect him or her to have the necessary experience and skills to handle the type of case you have.
Updates During the Bankruptcy Process
During the bankruptcy process, the trustee may ask you to provide additional documents or information. Also, your creditors may contact your attorney if they have issues with your bankruptcy case. Your attorney should keep you informed about new developments in your case and provide updates throughout the process.
Preparation of Your Bankruptcy Paperwork
Filing for bankruptcy requires you to complete a lengthy packet of forms. Almost all bankruptcy attorneys have specialized software that prepares and files your required bankruptcy paperwork with the court.
You must provide your attorney with all of the information that will go on the forms (such as information about your income, expenses, assets, and debts). Your lawyer's job is to prepare the forms based on the information you provide and go over your paperwork with you to make sure it’s accurate.
Timely Filing of All Required Documents
After you file your initial bankruptcy petition, you may have to file additional forms with the court or provide documents to your trustee by a specific deadline. Missing a deadline in bankruptcy can cause:
- delays in the process
- dismissal of your case, or
- other adverse consequences.
For this reason, you should expect your attorney to know all of the local rules and procedures in your area and file all necessary documents on time.
Representation at Bankruptcy Hearings
After you file for bankruptcy, you must attend a mandatory hearing called the meeting of creditors (also called the 341 hearing). And depending on the facts of your individual case, you (or your attorney) may need to go to additional hearings. In some cases, your attorney may advise you that you don’t have to come to a particular hearing. But your lawyer should still go on your behalf.
In addition to the meeting of creditors, the following are some of the most common types of hearings you can expect your attorney to represent you at: