You need to be immediately on guard when an attorney quotes you a fee for a chapter 7 bankruptcy without first discussing your circumstances and reviewing a number of essential documents. Most people are looking for the cheapest way possible out of the mess they are in. Money is important.
Is The Cheapest Bankruptcy Lawyer a Good Thing?
Some attorneys advertise teasingly low prices for a “bankruptcy.” Most often these are in the newspaper. This is not the fee for an actual bankruptcy. It is the cost for a shell filing. A shell is just the first 3 pages of the petition, and a listing of your creditors called a matrix. You then need to pay more to have the lawyer amend the shell into a complete petition containing the forms, schedules, and means test, or the case will be dismissed. I do not file shells. If you want a bankruptcy I will prepare a bankruptcy for you. That’s it.
You might also find a lawyer who advertises a low ball chapter 7 attorney fee for a full bankruptcy. That ad is for a lawyer who is either new to the field and lacks experience, or one who plans to provide severely restricted services, usually far less than you need or expect. Each is in it for the quick hit. Should you swallow the hook? The inexperienced lawyer will make mistakes. Mistakes in bankruptcy court result in:
- Turning over property to the trustee that you might have otherwise kept, and wanted to keep as exempt. The trustee will liquidate it to disburse the funds to creditors.
- Means test or income and budget errors which unfairly force you into chapter 13 or even case dismissal.
- Adjourned creditor meetings which require you to miss even more work.
Even worse, the lawyer who charges you for a bankruptcy and nothing more will then charge you for each and every extra little thing he does for you. Do you really need to be nickel and dimed, or do you want a bankruptcy lawyer you can trust?
I Need To Evaluate Your Whole Situation Before I Can Set a Chapter 7 Fee
All this boils down to the fact that no competent bankruptcy attorney can tell you how much your bankruptcy will cost ahead of meeting you and seeing your paperwork. I do not expect you to bring money when you come in to talk about your issues unless you are facing an emergency. In that case, we have already addressed that over the phone. We will discuss the fee and enter into a written agreement which sets forth the extent of the bankruptcy representation. Although I don’t charge a consultation fee, the time for this meeting is factored into the fee you will pay.
Some clients do bring payment to the consultation which does help to speed up the process. I am also ok with a payment plan, and that will be included in the agreement. I do not like to extend payments longer than 60 days because after that your information begins to get outdated.
I do take great care to consider your personal situation in setting the fee.