Recently I encountered the ultimate bankruptcy attorney fee price shopper. There is nothing wrong with trying to stretch a dollar when money is tight. He saw an article I wrote about a lawyer who advertises the $395 bankruptcy case. He wanted the protection of a bankruptcy case, and a free ride.
First I explained that I do not do bankruptcy for a $395 attorney fee. The person’s next question was: “What is the lowest bankruptcy attorney fee you have ever charged, and can I pay that?” My reply was, “How is that relevant to your situation?” I had no idea why he needed to file, and what his personal financial circumstances are. Those factors are just the beginning of a bankruptcy attorney fee decision.
Would you expect a house painter to quote you a job to paint your house without first dropping by to look at the job? Same thing goes for a bankruptcy case. Some take massive work while others present no significant issues. The problem is, it is not always obvious which case you will have.
Balance this against the fact that even what a client believes to be a “simple” bankruptcy case still requires verification of everything that goes into a petition. Each month that passes your pay advices and bank statements need kept up to date. Few clients will do this without being constantly prodded by staff. Often a bankruptcy petition I have ready to file grows stale because I don’t have current information. Once you send it in, many of the bankruptcy schedules will have to be changed. This increases my costs on your case each month this happens.
Currently I am involved in a “simple” chapter 7 where the client “forgot” about $5,000 that ran trough the bank account mere weeks before filing. A case that appeared simple has suddenly grown fangs and requires much research, negotiations and possible litigation.
Another client hired me who previously consulted a low priced, inexperienced bankruptcy attorney. His stated bankruptcy attorney fee was $495. The client had a copy of the one page, small print contract to prove it. This agreement had a paragraph for additional fee services that takes up 40% of the document. For this man all the reasons he needs to file and the work required to be done will fall into this lawyer’s “additional fee” category. Is $495 really the fee, or his trick to get you in?
The real question is not what is the least I charge, but what will you do to minimize my fee? Here are my suggestions:
- Arrive on time and on the date scheduled for your consultation.
- Have requested documents ready
- Keep dated documents like pay advices, bank statements, and tax returns up to date
- Quickly pay fees so you can complete credit counseling and I can file your bankruptcy case.
If I have to wait on you for documents, you leave me sitting when you don’t cancel appointments you never intended to keep, or you are a “slow pay” there is no reason to extend you the courtesy of a lower fee because it simply costs me more to be your bankruptcy attorney.
Want an affordable fee? Be wonderful.