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Top Ten Questions to Ask When You Call a Bankruptcy Attorney in Chicago

So you're considering filing for bankruptcy in the Chicago area and have decided to call an attorney to get some information.  Always a good idea.  Next thing you know, you have an appointment with somebody to do something at some cost and you don't know what just happened, but you're supposed to come in with some money.  Do not let this happen to you.  If nothing else, ask these ten questions and make sure you get actual answers before agreeing to meet with anyone for a consultation.

1.  Am I speaking with an actual attorney?  Many bankruptcy firms in the Chicago area use paralegals, clerks and secretaries to answer their phones and schedule their appointments.  Do not settle for this, make sure you are speaking with an attorney.

2.  How much does a consultation cost?  Bottom line, your initial consultation should be free.  You have not met the attorney, you have not explained your situation fully and you do not know what the bankruptcy lawyer can do for you yet or whether you want the attorney to represent you, so why would you pay for a consultation?

3.  If I schedule a consultation, how long will it take?  A proper bankruptcy consultation will require you to bring in some paperwork, fill out some paperwork and spend a significant amount of time reviewing the information with an attorney.  If you're told you can be in and out in fifteen minutes, how thorough of a job could the attorney do?

4.  If I schedule a consultation, what is the process?  As stated above, a proper consultation will require some paperwork on your part.  After that, you should be meeting with an attorney to review it.  Many of the big bankruptcy firms in Chicago funnel their consultations through clerks and paralegals, giving you minimal face time with an actual attorney.  This is not good enough for a meaningful consultation.

5.  If I schedule a consultation, who will I meet with and what are their qualifications?  Make sure that you are not going to be trusting your financial future with someone who has been out of law school for ten minutes.  You should be meeting with an attorney who has been focussing on bankruptcy for years, not weeks.

6.  Is there an office close to my home where I can have a consultation?  You should not have to come all the way into downtown Chicago, Joliet, Waukegan, etc. to meet with a bankruptcy attorney.  You should also not be discussing your personal financial matters at the local Starbucks because the lawyer does not have an office close to you.  If there is not an office reasonably close to your home, call somebody else.

7.  Do you have office hours that work with my schedule?  Most of us work for a living and you do not need to be taking time off when you're in financial trouble already to meet with a bankruptcy attorney in the Chicago area.  You should be able to get a morning, evening or weekend appointment that works with your schedule.

8.  How much will filing for bankruptcy cost?  Most respectable attorneys will not give you an exact fee quote until you have gone through a proper consultation, but they should be able to give you a reasonable range of fees.  If they refuse, move on.  If you are given a fee range, ask that it be noted in your file so that you can hold them to it at your consultation.

9.  How do you expect the fees to be paid?  Nobody calls a bankruptcy attorney with money to spare, so make sure that the firm that you work with is willing to work out a reasonable payment plan with you that you can afford.

10.  Is your firm registered with the Illinois Better Business Bureau and, if so, what is your rating?  Respectable consumer bankruptcy firms are generally registered with the BBB and, if they are doing the job right, have a high grade.  If they are, ask what name they are listed under and check them out yourself.  If they are not, move on to a firm that is.

If you ask these ten questions and are satisfied with the answers, then it is likely worthwhile to schedule an appointment for a bankruptcy consultation.  Keep in mind, it is just a consultation.  You are not bound to hire the firm if you are not satisfied with the consultation, which will be the subject of a later blog.

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