Money spent on a bankruptcy lawyer is almost always money well spent.
Bankruptcy is not simply a matter of “filling out forms.”
Trying to do it yourself may save a buck at the beginning. But if you don’t understand the bankruptcy terminology or don’t know what the form is really asking for, you can really screw things up.
So when you’ve made the decision to have an experienced bankruptcy lawyer represent you, you’ve taken the right, first step. Your success or failure can depend on it, and which bankruptcy attorney you choose makes a difference.
But, you can do more to really get your money’s worth.
7 tips for a successful bankruptcy case
It’s tempting after you made a difficult decision to file bankruptcy to think you can hand off all the work to your attorney. Not so.
Only you have the facts about your financial situation. Your lawyer can supply the law that applies to those facts, but only if you share them with your counsel.
Write down your questions before your first meeting so they don’t get lost in a flood of information about bankruptcy.
Ask questions, and follow up questions, as you supply information and review schedules. Your attorney only knows if you are confused if you ask.
And if it’s uncomfortable to ask, you have the wrong attorney.
Filing bankruptcy plunges you into an unfamiliar world where law you’ve never heard of produces outcomes you might not expect.
Bankruptcy lawyers are required to provide certain disclosures by reason of the dubiously named bankruptcy reform act. Many lawyers have written their own explanations and guidelines.
Those materials only help you avoid mishaps if you read them carefully. Your answers on your attorney’s questionnaire are only useful if you’ve read the question carefully. Then see Rule 2.
Open the mail
I was tempted to throttle a client who came to a hearing without the necessary papers.
“Didn’t you get the letter I sent you listing what you needed to bring?” I asked. “Oh, I got it, but I didn’t open it“, she replied.
Need I say more? See Rule 3.
Don’t expect a crystal ball
Some questions simply have no answers in advance.
Will the trustee accept the value I put on my house? Will I have to come to a second meeting of creditors? Will a creditor challenge the discharge of their claim?
Who can know in advance? My law partner responds to such questions this way: ” If I could see the future, I wouldn’t be practicing law, I’d be picking the Lotto numbers.”
Be time conscious
Bankruptcy is full of deadlines. Miss some deadlines and it costs you money. Miss other deadlines and it can cost you the case.
Bankruptcy lawyers ask for your input because there is a need. Don’t assume that you can respond when it’s convenient for you.
Get on the request and respond, even if it’s only to say you have only part of what’s requested.
Don’t try to become a bankruptcy lawyer
Your lawyer can’t tell you enough about bankruptcy in the course of your case that you can understand everything about the applicable law.
Some things in the “reformed” bankruptcy law make no sense, even if you understood what the law says or does.
Be content to understand the broad picture and take your attorney’s advice about how things are handled.
Beyond that, relax
Bankruptcy is not nearly as intrusive or judgmental as you’ve probably assumed. An experienced lawyer can help you sort out real concerns about your case from myths and bogeymen.
Be prepared to make good use of your bankruptcy discharge.
**Today’s guest poster is Cathy Moran.
Cathy Moran helps individuals and small businesses in Silicon Valley with their bankruptcy issues .