Chicago Bankruptcy Question: What should happen when I consult with a bankruptcy lawyer?

Chicago Bankruptcy Question of the Day: What should happen when I consult with a bankruptcy lawyer?  You have done your research, reviewed several Chicago bankruptcy lawyers, spoken with several Chicago bankruptcy attorneys and have found an attorney that you want to consult with.  Now you are not sure what to expect from that consultation.  In our opinion, the consultation should go along these lines:

Location:  When you come to your consultation, it should be held in a proper office.  If you approach the attorney's office and it looks like a fast food stand or a fly by night operation, turn around and find another bankruptcy lawyer.  Ditto if they want to meet you at Starbucks or McDonalds instead of their office.

Paperwork:  In order to effectively analyze your situation, the bankruptcy attorney will need you to complete some basic paperwork.  This is a necessary evil in today's legal world.  You should also have been asked to bring some documents, such as pay stubs, your ID, recent tax returns, etc.  This paperwork is the starting point of any good consultation, so make sure you bring the requested documents and complete the paperwork as best you can.

Meet with the attorney:  Once you have completed the paperwork, you should be able to meet with the attorney.  Not a paralegal, not an administrative assistant and not a clerk, but the actual attorney.  If you cannot meet with the attorney, it's time to find someone else.

Questions, questions, questions:  The bankruptcy attorney that you meet with should ask you a lot of questions before going into what they can do for you and what the fees are.  The bankruptcy process is complex and the effects of an oversight can be severe, so the attorney should be intent on gathering a lot of information from you in order to effectively analyze your situation.

Reports:  Do not be surprised if the attorney spends half of their time with you staring at the computer.  These days you can find a wealth of information online, such as credit reports, property valuations, vehicle valuations, court dockets, etc.  These tools are invaluable when it comes to analyzing a bankruptcy case and the attorney should take advantage of them.  You should also get a copy of all of these documents from the attorney so that you are looking at the same information.

Analysis:  Once the attorney has reviewed the paperwork, pulled the reports and asked you what seems like a million questions, they should be able to give you a proper analysis of your situation.  They should explain the different chapters of bankruptcy available, which one they recommend and why.  They should explain the pre-filing process, exemptions, the Automatic Stay of Bankruptcy, the Trustee, discharge, debts that will not be discharged, risks involved and the post-filing process.  They should put their fees, costs and the filing fees in writing and explain your payment options.  This is where too many bankruptcy attorneys are lacking.  They simply tell you what they think you should do, what their fees are and ask for a retainer.  They are under pressure to meeting with their next client, in a hurry to go home or just don't care whether you understand the process or not.  This is an important decision for you; do not be pushed into making it simply because the attorney is in a rush; make sure you understand exactly what you are signing on for.

Your questions:  Now that the attorney has analyzed your situation and explained your options, fees, and payment plans; they should be willing to answer your questions in detail.  This is also an area where many bankruptcy attorneys fall short.  If the attorney is not willing to answer your questions at the first consultation, what are the odds that they will be willing to do so as the case goes forward?

Remember, at the end of the consultation, you are still under no obligation to hire the bankruptcy lawyer that you have met with.  You have every right to go home and think about it, discuss your options with loved ones or get a second opinion from another bankruptcy attorney.  This is an important decision, so be sure that you are confident you are making the right choice in attorneys.

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