Should I Hire the Cheapest Bankruptcy Lawyer I Can Find?

Some people seem fixated on getting the cheapest cost they can for every thing they buy. That might work when buying an electronic gadget, but it doesn’t work very well when hiring a bankruptcy lawyer.

Bankruptcy is (kind of) like open heart surgery. If you had to have open heart surgery, would you try to find the cheapest open heart surgeon? Of course not! You would want to know how many surgeries the surgeon had done, how long the surgeon had been doing that kind of surgery, what kind of reputation the surgeon had in the community. While some might think that your financial future is not as important as open heart surgery, it is still important. Fees should be only a part of the consideration when deciding to hire a bankruptcy attorney.

Check references and reputation. There are several good places to check an attorney’s reputation and references. Here are a few ideas:

  • Has the attorney been elected by peers to boards of professional associations, like the Central California Bankruptcy Association, the California Bankruptcy Forum or other similar groups?
  • Is the bankruptcy lawyer on Avvo and what is the lawyer’s Avvo score? Hint: don’t just rely on the sponsored listings. Those have been paid for.
  • Is the bankruptcy lawyer a certified specialist in bankruptcy law by either the California State Bar or the American Board of Certification? To be board certified, a bankruptcy lawyer has to meet several criteria, including passing a written exam, participating in a certain amount of continuing legal education and having other professionals confirm that the bankruptcy attorney is an expert in bankruptcy law.
  • Is the bankruptcy lawyer asked to speak frequently at continuing legal education (CLE) events? That is often a good gauge of whether other professionals trust the bankruptcy lawyer as a being knowledgeable.
  • Is the attorney local? And will the attorney personally appear at your court hearing? Many out of town attorneys hire appearance attorneys instead of personally going to the hearing with you.

Low Fees Probably Means CuttingCorners. I have some friends who needed work done on their house. They got bids from several contractors. Some of the bids were really low. They looked at the low bids and honestly did not see how the contractor could afford to do the work for the low bid. And you know what? They were probably right. There was probably no way the contractor could do the job they were expecting for the amount he had quoted. The contractor would have had to cut corners. The same is true of bankruptcy attorneys. A cheap bankruptcy attorney is going to have to cut corners. They are not going to be able to do all of the work needed to properly handle the bankruptcy case.

Do you want an attorney who feels like he has to do the minimum he can for your case or someone who will take an active interest in your case and make sure that everything is done properly. If you want the latter, you want to look beyond the amount of the fee. Otherwise, you may spend a lot more getting it fixed than just paying a fair amount in the beginning.