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How Much Does a Maryland Bankruptcy Attorney Cost

If your financial situation is getting bleaker by the minute, it may be time to contact a Maryland bankruptcy attorney. But you may be wondering whether you can afford one. This article will explain the costs behind hiring a Maryland bankruptcy attorney.

There are several factors that will impact the size of your legal bill, such as:

  • The billing method the lawyer uses
  • How much the lawyer charges within that billing method
  • How long it takes to wrap up your bankruptcy
  • The amount of associated legal expenses you incur when filing for bankruptcy

The billing method a Maryland bankruptcy attorney chooses to use will have as much of an impact on cost as the rate he or she charges. Generally, bankruptcy lawyers in Maryland use one of two billing methods: an hourly rate, in which you pay for legal services by the hour, or a flat fee.

Under either billing method, you will be responsible for other legal expenses related to handling your bankruptcy. Among these fees are:

  • Fees to the bankruptcy court in your part of Maryland
  • Trustee fees (a trustee is the person assigned to oversee the bankruptcy)
  • Consumer counseling fees
  • Tuition for mandatory personal financial management classes

You may also be billed separately for legal expenses not included in the lawyer's fees, such as photocopying, travel, or use of a paralegal.

Hiring a Maryland Bankruptcy Lawyer by the Hour

When you pay for legal services by the hour, many Maryland bankruptcy attorneys will require you to pay a retainer fee, or down payment. From then on, you'll receive monthly bills.

Many bankruptcy lawyers who charge by the hour will break that hour into either 15-minute or 6-minute intervals. The difference may seem small, but it does add up.

For example, a lawyer who charges $200 an hour in 15-minute intervals would charge $50 for a 5-minute phone conversation. With a lawyer who also charges $200 an hour but in 6-minute intervals, that same conversation would only cost $20.

A lawyer's hourly fee is influenced by several factors:

  • The amount of experience the lawyer has
  • The lawyer's location
  • The complexity of the legal matter
  • The cost of overhead to run the firm or office

Whether you are in Baltimore, Annapolis, or any other part of the state, just because a lawyer charges more does not necessarily mean that you will end up paying more overall. A more experienced lawyer who charges more by the hour may get you through your Maryland Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy faster, thus saving you money.

Hiring a Maryland Bankruptcy Lawyer on a Flat Fee

Attorneys who handle fairly routine matters, such as writing a will or filing bankruptcies, may offer their services for a flat fee. The fee may not include everything, and you will likely still have to pay for court fees and other related costs. If you want to hire a Maryland bankruptcy lawyer for a flat fee, make sure you know what is included in the fee and what is not included before you hire the lawyer.

Different attorneys will offer different payment schedules. This is another topic to understand before making a hiring decision.

Finally, flat fees usually aren't refundable. That means that if you change your mind about filing bankruptcy or if you want to switch lawyers, you may not get your money back. If you have any doubts, discuss this before hiring a lawyer on a flat fee.

The Cost of Hiring a Maryland Bankruptcy Lawyer

It should be clear by now that you need to ask Maryland bankruptcy attorneys a number of questions before you decide to hire one. Here are some suggestions that should help you sort things out:

  • Do you charge by the hour or a flat fee?
  • What does your hourly or flat fee cover? What is not included?
  • What other expenses will I likely pay? Can you estimate them for me?
  • Is there any room to negotiate your fee?
  • If I pay a flat fee, what kind of payment options do you have? Is the fee refundable?

There may be room for negotiating the lawyer's fee, but you can only do this before you hire a lawyer, not after. Discuss money matters with Maryland bankruptcy attorneys while you are still in the interview phase of your search for a lawyer. Once you hire a lawyer, it is too late to change the fee structure.

When you get the answers to these questions, you'll have a much better handle on how much it costs to hire a Maryland bankruptcy attorney.