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Factors to Consider When Hiring a San Francisco Bankruptcy Attorney

If you’ve made the decision to hire a San Francisco bankruptcy attorney, you may be wondering how you can tell which one is for you. There are so many factors to consider: Experience, strategy and trustworthiness, to name a few of the more important. This article will address how you measure those factors and more.

The key to sizing up a lawyer will be in the interview you conduct before you make your hiring decision. Most consumer bankruptcy lawyers in San Francisco are willing to meet with you briefly in a session called an initial consultation. These meetings will help you:

  • Learn about a lawyer’s background and experience
  • Get some feedback about your financial options
  • Decide whether this is the lawyer you want to hire

Oftentimes, bankruptcy attorneys in San Francisco will offer their time at an initial consultation for free, but some may require a nominal fee. Ask about fees when you book the appointment.

Evaluating a San Francisco Bankruptcy Attorney

Before your appointment, take some time to think of some questions you’d like to ask a San Francisco bankruptcy attorney. Write them down and bring them with you. Also bring some extra paper and a pen so you can take notes.

Your questions should focus on topics that you care most about. For example, experience is an important area to explore. You’ll want your attorney to have experience representing San Francisco clients filing bankruptcy.

Not all bankruptcy attorneys handle bankruptcy filings exclusively. If a lawyer you interview practices in other areas of the law, you’ll want to know which and how much of his work is devoted to bankruptcy.

Some attorneys belong to bar associations and professional organizations that keep them up to date on the latest changes in the law. Ask the interviewees you meet if they belong to any such groups.

You should also ask about how much filing for bankruptcy will cost. Bankruptcy lawyers have different methods of billing and different rates. Most will either bill you by the hour for their time or ask for a flat fee, one price for the lawyer’s services.

A lot of variables go into calculating the legal fees. Even location can affect your bottom line. For example, the going rate for a bankruptcy attorney in the Financial District may be different from the going rate in Haight-Ashbury.

Whether the San Francisco consumer bankruptcy lawyer charges an hourly fee or a flat fee, you will likely have to pay a whole host of other fees. They may include court filing fees, tuition for mandatory financial education classes and payment for a trustee, the person assigned to oversee your bankruptcy filing.

In addition, the lawyer may have some other related legal fees for you to pay, such as for photocopying or use of a paralegal. Get an estimate for how much all of these extra fees may total.

Strategy

To help analyze your financial situation, you should bring with you various items that document your situation, such as:

  • A list of your current and past debts
  • An inventory of the property you own, along with any financial holdings (bank accounts, retirement accounts, stocks)
  • A copy of the deed to your house, if you own one
  • Proof of your income (tax returns and paycheck stubs will suffice)
  • Any correspondence you have with creditors and collectors

You have many financial options, and you will want to discuss them with the San Francisco bankruptcy attorneys you meet. Should you file for Chapter 7 (also known as straight bankruptcy) or Chapter 13, which will let you reorganize your debts and put you on various payment plans?

There are alternatives to filing bankruptcy. The lawyers you meet should run through each of the possibilities for you and whether they apply to your situation. You also will want to know  what debts you can eliminate and which property you can hold on to.

The Touchy-Feely Factor

You are going to be working with your San Francisco bankruptcy attorney for some time. It’s important he is someone you can trust. So during the initial consultation, ask yourself a few questions, including:

  • How confident am I in the lawyer’s suggestions?
  • Does he seem trustworthy?
  • Is the lawyer patient with my questions? Does he answer them in a way I understand?
  • How comfortable am I with this lawyer?

The answers to these questions could help you break a tie between several worthy candidates. Because not only do you want someone with good experience, reasonable legal fees and sound advice, you want someone in whom your confidence is wisely placed.

Once you have found a San Francisco bankruptcy attorney who has all of these qualities, you are ready to move forward with your bankruptcy filing.

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