We get calls from people almost every day asking how much we charge to file bankruptcy. They have apparently already decided, perhaps upon the advice of a friend or family member, that they need to file bankruptcy and are making their way through a list of law firms asking this question alone to determine who they can pay the least to be the caretaker of their financial future.
Now think about this for a moment. The person’s finances are at a point where they feel that they have no option but to file bankruptcy and they are making a decision on who to hire to help them based upon which attorney will charge the least. Worse yet, there are apparently attorneys who will quote a fee for handling an important legal matter without knowing anything more about a person than what they learn in a 30 second phone conversation.
Why Do You Think You Need to File Bankruptcy?
My firm has helped people with financial problems for over 25 years. From day one, I have told the men and women who answer our phones that we cannot, and will not, quote a fee based upon a phone conversation alone. Instead, I ask that the caller be put through to me so that I can ask a simple question. I ask “why do you think you need to file bankruptcy?” The caller will respond by saying something like “I can’t pay my bills”. Having made a career of helping people with money problems, I am immediately concerned and curious. I ask about what kind of debt the person has. Is it a house payment? A car payment? Medical bills? Credit cards? Student loans? Taxes? Some or all of these?
I then ask if the person has a job and where they work. I want to know if they own property. You see, I want to help the person on the other end of the line get to a better place. Although I am a bankruptcy attorney, my first objective is to help the caller avoid bankruptcy. Yes, I know. My wife tells me often, if I am going to be a bankruptcy attorney then I need to help people file bankruptcy. Though, that may not be what is in the best interest of the person who has called me.
Obligation to Help
You see, as an attorney, I feel an obligation to help that person accomplish what his best for him – not me. For instance, if the caller doesn’t own any property and her only source of income comes from social security benefits then there may be no reason to file bankruptcy. There is no property for a creditor to attach and social security benefits can usually not be garnished. So the person has no reason to file bankruptcy. If he is already barely getting along on a meager income, why should he pay me ANY amount to file a bankruptcy which will serve no purpose?
And there are additional questions. If a bankruptcy is needed then what kind of bankruptcy? Is the caller facing a foreclosure? A wage garnishment? A potential repossession? Would it be better to file a chapter 7 straight bankruptcy which may result in the loss of a home or a car, or, a chapter 13 reorganization which could last for 3-5 years but might allow the caller to keep and reduce car payment?
Best Option for You
The point is that the caller may have many options. I believe that it is my job to help her find the best option for her. Not for me to quote her the lowest fee possible to lure her into becoming my client. Most attorneys who practice bankruptcy law offer a free consultation. The one that the caller will hire will help guide her through a very complex process which will impact her both positively and negatively for many years to come. She owes it to herself to interview more than one attorney and find the one who she can trust and feel comfortable with. Not the one who will charge the least.
So, How Much Do We Charge?
In conclusion, I don’t know how much I will charge you to file a bankruptcy until I have sat down with you in person, gotten to know you, evaluated your situation, decided that you need to file bankruptcy and, if so, what kind of bankruptcy. I would encourage you to be cautious about hiring an attorney who quotes you a fee without having done all of these things. I don’t know what it will cost you to file bankruptcy, but I do know this, it costs more to fix a bankruptcy that is filed wrong than to file it correctly in the first place.
If you are having financial problems, please don’t hire the cheapest attorney. Make an informed decision and hire the attorney who will represent your interests best. At Bond & Botes, we want to do our best for you.
Brad Botes is a principal of each of the Bond & Botes Law Offices throughout Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee. He holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of North Alabama, and a Juris Doctorate from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University. He and his team of bankruptcy lawyers have spent over 30 years guiding people through financial challenges. Read his full bio here.