How to Find a Good Bankruptcy Lawyer

Just as there are good doctors and bad doctors, good teachers and bad teachers, good auto mechanics and bad auto mechanics, so too there are good lawyers and bad lawyers. Indeed, some attorneys are barely competent or even downright incompetent. Just as there is no simple, guaranteed way of finding a good doctor, there is no simple, guaranteed way to find a good lawyer. Here are some things to look for:

  • Experience. It would seem obvious that an attorney who has been practicing for 25 years should know more than an attorney with only 10 years experience. However, that is not always the case. There are some attorneys who have practiced bankruptcy law for many years, but have never really mastered the subject. There are other attorneys who have pursued a general practice, filing a case now and then. If they have been practicing for 25 years without much in-depth experience in bankruptcy, that does not translate to the expertise you need. Tip #1: Look for an attorney with many years experience in consumer and small business bankruptcy law, who enjoys the respect of other bankruptcy attorneys, the trustees, and the judges.
  • Training & Competence. After an attorney graduates from law school and passes the state bar examination, then the real learning begins. Even when there are not many new laws being passed on a particular subject, attorneys improve their skills by attending educational seminars. Now, with the enactment of a completely different bankruptcy law, education is an absolute necessity. So many basic concepts under the prior law just don’t work anymore. And, the new law is so complex, an attorney is making a big mistake if s/he thinks s/he can understand it by just sitting down and reading it. There is only one organization that is devoted to training attorneys who represent debtors – the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA). NACBA held two-day workshops in Chicago (July 2005) and Orlando (September 2005) to teach attorneys how to practice under the new law. More than 3,000 attorneys crunched numbers, filled out worksheets, and learned the new concepts necessary to practice under the new law. Tip #2: Is the attorney a member of NACBA? Did the attorney attend NACBA educational events?
  • Someone Who Will Listen to You. An attorney who tells you what you should do before s/he even listens to the facts of your situation is not the right attorney. Unfortunately, some attorneys have a “cookie cutter” approach to legal advice which completely ignores the true difficulties or opportunities that your case may present. Tip #3: You want an attorney who will listen to your facts and ask the right questions so s/he will truly understand your case.
  • Someone Who Will Give You Specific Advice About Your Situation. Tip #4: Your attorney should listen to you and then consider your specific facts in the context of the law. Only by doing that will s/he be able to give you the advice you deserve – good advice.