That's it, you've had it! After struggling for months, or even years, to pay your debts, you are ready to consider filing for bankruptcy. The time has come to find a bankruptcy lawyer but you have no idea what to look for, or which questions to ask. It's not uncommon to see a bankruptcy attorney advertise on television. Some even advertise on billboards, but you can't be sure. It might be awkward to ask friends and family for a recommendation, so most people opt for an online search.
Believe it or not, a lot can be learned just by reading through an attorney's web site, but you shouldn't stop there. Filing for bankruptcy is pretty serious and it requires the right representation. Here are some ways to find, and then select, the best bankruptcy lawyer for you.
Look for signs of professionalism
Before you get started, it makes sense to check in with some professional organizations. Membership in organizations such as the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, is a good indication that the firm or attorney is up to date on the latest developments. Once you locate a few members in your area, visit the web site for your state's bar association and check their certification. Most states will have special certification requirements for practicing bankruptcy law. A certification is given when the lawyer has been practicing for a minimum number of years and spends at 50 percent of the time on bankruptcy cases. A peer review and a passing score on a written exam will also be required.
Credentials and association memberships will give you the assurance that an attorney has all the practical knowledge necessary to help you, even if your case gets complicated. It will also tell you that the attorney takes professionalism seriously.
Prepare to interview a few bankruptcy lawyers
After you have found a few firms or lawyers that look interesting, take a look at their web sites. They should include a clearly written statement of educational information about bankruptcy, plus financial forms that you can download and in preparation for filing.
Schedule a few appointments and as for a free consultation. It may be tempting to go with the first one you like, but plan on seeing more than one. You should feel perfectly comfortable with the attorney and confident in his or her abilities. To save time, complete any forms you find on the web site and bring them along. Bring a list of questions you might have and use the same list of questions with each attorney. The answers you get may help you determine which one to hire.
What should you look for in a bankruptcy lawyer?
While professionalism and rapport are important, it is also essential that you trust the person you hire. Look for the following qualities during your initial consultation.
Do they discuss with you the alternative bankruptcy solutions? For example, an attorney should tell you that a Chapter 7, or complete cancellation of eligible debts, isn't the only answer. Other options should be explored whenever possible, such as credit counseling or negotiation with creditors. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy might also be on the table if you have enough income to support at least some of your liabilities, or if you own property that could be seized in a Chapter 7 filing. It is important to understand the full range of possible resolutions before making a decision that you could later regret.
Does the attorney express a passion for his or her profession? It is important that your lawyer is personally involved and enthusiastic about the process. Many attorneys find their work rewarding and fascinating. Find out what drove them to specialize in bankruptcy law and listen carefully to the response. To be honest, there are few other practice areas where an attorney can do so much good for a client in such a short period of time.
Do they listen to you closely and understand your situation? Declaring bankruptcy can be a painful decision and there are plenty of emotions involved. You will want an empathetic attorney who is interested in helping you reach your goals, but who also shows a willingness to ask you probing questions. If the lawyer doesn't ask you how you about your biggest concerns, or what got into your financial predicament, he or she may not be viewing you as an individual. You should walk out of your meeting feeling like the attorney really wants to help you.
Job numbers may be creeping back up, but so are gas prices. The fact that folks are getting back to work doesn't necessarily mean that a personal financial crisis has been averted. In other words, trying to catch up sometimes is more of a challenge than going backwards.
Whether you and your family are considering filing for a Colorado bankruptcy, or whether you are already rebuilding your path to financial security, advice from consumer advocacy groups and finance experts on how to protect your hard-earned income is information everyone can appreciate.
~ Unless you plan to pay off the balance of your credit card each month, don't use it to snag that 'sale' or 'discount' item.
~ Create a budget to take better control of your spending. Most banks now even offer online banking services that include expense analysis so you don't even have to do the work yourself. You just click a few buttons and your ATM card history will reveal if you are blowing 15 percent of your take-home pay each week on take-out.
~ Review your car insurance policies. Sometimes changing your deductible or coverage scope (or, your insurance company) can save you money.
~ Be willing to settle for a knock-off or a second-hand brand name item.
~ When grocery shopping, stick to your list and don't splurge on impulse purchases of specialty cheeses or coconut water.
Colorado debt-relief lawyers with the Law Office of Stephen H. Smith understand that even the most industrious Colorado families can find themselves overwhelmed by unmanageable (and often unexpected) medical bill debts.
Call (719) 520-0164 today to schedule a free consultation.
After a divorce, you become more susceptible to increasing debt, and subsequently a Colorado bankruptcy. To be sure, bankruptcy can be a blessing in disguise, as it allows you to free yourself of debts you may have accrued during your marriage, and those that piled up following your divorce.
In some cases, you could be doing everything right, and still end up in sticky financial straits. However, there are often steps you can take to minimize the impact of a divorce and the struggles of single-parenthood.
With Mother's Day fast-approaching, here are some tips for single mothers in particular:
1. Watch what you earn versus what you spend. Sometimes, single mothers avoid looking at their finances critically because they are afraid of what they will find. However, this will only lead to bigger problems down the line. Stop to take an honest look and figure out what the necessities are, versus the luxuries. If there's nothing left over for savings, some of those luxuries may have to be cut for now.
2. Get good life insurance coverage. A recent survey by the research firm LIMRA found that nearly 40 percent of single mothers said that in the event of their death, their families would be in major financial trouble. A large number said it's likely they'd only have enough to keep them afloat for a few months. Even if you have a policy through your employer, it may not be enough. It's worth it to check out rates from multiple insurers.
3. Prepare for the possibility of disability. This is particularly important for women, who may face some medical health risks that their male counterparts don't - namely, uterine cancer and pregnancy. Mounting medical bills are one of the main reasons people find themselves mired in debt.
4. If you don't have health insurance, get it. See above.
5. Make sure you have some money set aside for emergencies. Sometimes, this is going to mean some painful decisions. Things like cutting the cable or the premium cell phone plan. However, it's critical to ensuring stability and security of you and your children.
"My attorney (Matthew Hansen) is a very kind person. I felt very confident in his skills. He is very knowledgeable and efficient. He didn't make me feel embarrassed to be filing for bankruptcy. Thank you Matthew! Laura was very friendly, and everyone I interacted with was very nice and helpful as well."
– Sherry M., Colorado Springs, CO
"Steve explained things well so you know what you're doing. The staff was very helpful with everything, including the paperwork."
– Raymond & Rhonda P., Colorado Springs, CO
"From the first time that I entered the office, I was treated with the utmost respect. It was like I had been knowing all of the employees for years!! Every person that I came in contact with was extremely courteous!!!
I rate my overall experience a 12!! And I wouldn't change a thing on the website.
Cris is absolutely wonderul!! While Alicia was extremely courteous and humorous!!! Stephen (Swift) was extremely professional and courteous. One of the nicest gentlemen that I have Had the pleasure of working with. I can't thank him enough."
– Pete, Colorado Springs, CO
"Upon my first visit to the office, I was in an unfamiliar part of town. I was also bewildered and experiencing anxiety. I was not even sure I should be there or how to proceed in a very new situation where my back was against a wall. The first person I met in the office was the lovely receptionist. I have to say that she has the absolutely right demeanor and is extremely successful in her position. She has a slight but comforting smile and persona. She is confident but not arrogant in processing the needs of clients. I do not feel that this is a small achievement in any way. I feel this person in many ways sets the tone for the office as the gate keeper of the office and emotional clients. She definitely helped me thru this process with her silent and dedicated service to me, the clients and the office."
- John C., Colorado Springs, CO
"Upon entering Steve's office, one immediately knows they have entered his "zone". Steve will talk, think, contemplate, then act. He then spins his chair around, garbs paper, types on the computer and zaps something thru the printer. Occasionally, a document needs to be scanned or something else from outside the office is needed, and Zap someone appears without having to yell down a hall or call out. There is definitely a team here that is in sync. There may be a question out of the blue suddenly or a brief conversation about something else. The whole time, Steve is on point. I felt from day one, a trustworthy confidence in placing my future in his hands. I was not wrong. I also never once felt rushed, brushed off or that my concerns were not his. I felt that Steve is in this for me and his clients. I have a debt, gratitude and confidence in Steve and the Swift team that far exceeds the fees pain."
– John C., Colorado Springs, CO
"Thank you to everyone who worked on my case. My driving priviledges are now restored and I have a fresh start. I am very grateful to the Swift Law Firm! Everyone was very kind and helpful and easy to talk to.
Ward was very knowledgeable and knows the pros and cons of your case. Definitely a man to listen to concerning your case, and he was very helpful!
Matt Hansen is a good man, very helpful, gives good advice AND he is willing to go the extra mile. Steve Swift is a man of action who knows his profession. He lifted a heavy burden, and I cannot thank him enough for an excellent job!"
- Henry R., Colorado Springs, CO