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Chicago Bankruptcy Question: What should I ask when I contact a bankruptcy lawyer?

Chicago Bankruptcy Question of the Day: What should I ask when I contact a bankruptcy lawyer?  Your initial contact with a bankruptcy attorney in Chicago, whether by phone or email, should be vital part of determining whether or not you even want to consult with this lawyer, much less hire them.  Your initial contact should go somewhat along these lines:

Ensure that you are speaking with an attorney:  This may seem obvious, but several firms use paralegals, administrators, clerks or even third party companies to answer their phones and emails.  You cannot expect any reasonable legal advice if you are not speaking with an attorney.  As for a lawyer.  If they will not connect you with one, call someone else.

Expect some questions:  No lawyer who truly knows bankruptcy will schedule a consultation for you unless they know the basics about your situation.  You should be asked about your marital status, assets you own, debts you owe, your household income and expenses and what the trigger events were that led you to contact a bankruptcy lawyer.  Beware of the firms who try and simply push you into scheduling an appointment without discussing your situation.

Expect some answers:  Once the attorney knows your basic situation, they should have an idea as to what options you will have and what risks are apparent.  You are not going to be able to get specific details without a full, in-person consultation, but you should be able to get a basic analysis.  If the lawyer is unwilling to answer your questions, call someone else.

Ask about fees:  Don't be shy, you are the one who is going to have to pay them.  Ask if the consultation is free.  Ask what the total fees and costs will be.  Ask if they are flat fees.  Most lawyers will not give you an exact fee quote over the phone, as the exact fees should be determined at the consultation, but they should be able to give you a range.

Ask which attorney you will meet with:  It is common that you will talk to one attorney on the phone, but meet with another in the office.  The lawyer on the pone should be able tot tell you who you are going to meet, how long they have been practicing law and where you can go to find out more information on that attorney.  Be wary.  You may speak with a very experienced lawyer on the phone, only to be schedule to meet a lawyer fresh out of law school.

Ask what the consultation process is:  Too many firms will schedule you for a consultation where you spend half an hour doing paperwork, half an hour meeting with a paralegal and thirty seconds meeting with an actual attorney.  Some don't even have you meet the attorney at the first consultation.  If that is the case, call someone else.  A proper consultation will take at least thirty minutes to an hour with an actual attorney in order to get the case right.

You may have to talk to several firms before you find a situation where you are comfortable and confident enough to schedule an actual consultation.  That is absolutely fine.  It's your case, it's your money and it's your life, not the attorney's.  What should happen at the consultation, well that's the subject of tomorrow's blog.

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