What to Look for in a Bankruptcy Attorney

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There once was a time when picking an attorney involved grabbing your phone book, flipping to the attorney section, randomly selecting an attorney because they had the nicest "scales of justice" logo, and then hoping for the best.

In 2016 this method is obsolete. You now go to your favorite search engine, click on an attorney somewhere near the top of the first page, randomly select them based on the "scales of justice" logo on their website, and then hope for the best.

Don't do it this way! Choosing an attorney is a pretty big decision, it's worth a little time and thought. Here are three important characteristics to look for when hiring a bankruptcy attorney (or any attorney, for that matter):

1. Experience. You don't need someone with 40 years of experience to file a bankruptcy, it's not that complicated. At the same time, you don't want to hire someone six weeks out of law school, either. Let them practice on their cousin who never moved out of the basement. Speak with a few attorneys, ask them point-blank about their experience, and gauge how quickly and authoritatively they answer your questions (or alternatively, hem and haw). Don't count on what the internet says about their experience (sometimes, shockingly, people lie on the internet! Crazy, right!?).

2. Personality. You could end up interacting with your bankruptcy attorney for three-to-five years if you file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, and a year if filing a Chapter 7. This is longer than most marriages (source: my family). So, you should meet a few attorneys and find someone you like, and who communicates well. Your bankruptcy attorney doesn't need to be Justin Timberlake, who I am just going to assume has a great personality, but don't hire a jerk just because he or she is the first to answer your phone call (sometimes, shockingly, attorneys are jerks! Crazy, right!?).

3. Accessibility. This one might be the toughest to determine. Every attorney, every business in general, wants to seem accessible when they are trying to get your money. However, it's not impossible. When you called a couple law firms, did you ever actually speak with the attorney? When you met for a consultation, did you actually meet with the attorney, or was it a paralegal? Was the attorney distracted and in a rush to "process" you? Attorneys are generally pretty busy people, especially one of the good ones you are hoping to find. But, they shouldn't so busy that speaking with them is akin to an audience with the Pope.

It's really important to speak with multiple attorneys, read their online reviews, look over their website to see how current and relevant it is, and ask questions. I repeat… ask questions! There are some very good attorneys out there, don't just settle for the one with the full page ad in the phone book.