On November 18, 2010, George E. Burns, Commissioner for the State of Nevada Department of Business and Industry, Financial Institutions Division, gave the citizens of Nevada a slice of fairness. Commissioner Burns signed an Order that officially halts the seemingly tyrannical behavior of Home Owners Associations collections agencies (hereinafter HOA’s) across Nevada. Pursuant to the Order, a collection agency acting on behalf of the HOA may not charge more than nine (9) months of assessments. It should be noted that this nine (9) month cap does include extraneous fees such as interest, fines, and penalties.
When facing the decision whether or not to file for bankruptcy you want to make sure you have an experienced attorney who will handle your case the way you want. The following is a list of key issues you need to address and ask about when you are searching for a bankruptcy attorney:
Have you asked around?
The number one rule in choosing a lawyer is to ask others who have filed bankruptcy how their attorney treated them. Some attorneys run a “mill” practice that focus on getting as many people in and out of their office doors as possible. These attorneys charge typically charge lower fees but also give the least amount of service. By asking friends and family, you can avoid falling into a “mill”. Find an experienced attorney who will take the time to sit down and answer your questions. Remember, no matter how much an attorney may be well-regarded, unless he or she is experienced in BANKRUPTCY law issues you don’t need them.
Does the attorney have the right experience?
Any attorney you consider using for your bankruptcy must have BANKRUPTCY experience. You don’t want to be some newbie lawyer’s guinea pig. By “newbie” I just don’t mean a new lawyer but also a new bankruptcy lawyer. As I mentioned before, no matter how much an attorney may be well-regarded, unless he or she is experienced in BANKRUPTCY law issues you don’t need them.
Are there communication issues?
Does the attorney explain the bankruptcy process in a way you can understand? Blogging and online publishing is more important now than ever before since professionals share information and educate the public about issues that concern them. Bankruptcy lawyers who maintain their own blogs prove they are knowledgeable enough to help others understand this field of law.
Who will be handling your case?
You must ask which lawyer will be handling your file. The attorney you interview may not necessarily be the one who will handle your bankruptcy issue. Make sure to ask who WILL be doing the day-to-day work on your file. In some firms, a paralegal might be handling the majority of your case so you should make sure you know this as well.
How much will it cost?
You have enough money trouble without worrying about what the fees will be for your bankruptcy. Ask the lawyer for the most detailed estimate he can give as to how much your case will cost.
Don’t make a fee-based decision.
The cheapest lawyer is not always the best lawyer. Hopefully, bankruptcy is a once-in-a-lifetime event. As such, you want to make sure you are getting a bankruptcy attorney who can do the best job for YOU. You want an attorney who will take the time to answer your questions, concerns, and any other fears you may have. An attorney who has his paralegal or assistant returning his phone calls might not be paying attention to your case. Always remember that you hired the attorney to work for you. Don’t settle for anyone else but THAT lawyer to do the work.
While this question might be broad, it allows your lawyer to discuss all of your options. Your lawyer can discuss the benefits of Chapter 7 and Chapter 13, as well as options other than bankruptcy that you may not have considered yourself. This overview may provide you with a clearer understanding of the pros and cons of filing bankruptcy.
Who will actually be handling my case?
In some cases, the lawyer you consult with will not actually be handling your case. It is important to know who will handle your case and also whether this person is a lawyer. In many consumer bankruptcy “mill” practices, a non-lawyer performs the majority of the work on your case.
How much of your time is devoted to bankruptcy cases?
Though some lawyers have 20 years of experience, they may only work on two or three bankruptcy cases a year. Therefore, they will not be as experienced as lawyers who work bankruptcy exclusively for much shorter periods of time. Bankruptcy laws have recently changed so it is important to know that your lawyer is familiar with these new laws.
How much do you charge for your services?
This might seem like an obvious question to ask initially but there are benefits to waiting until the end of the consultation. First of all, you can evaluate all of the other services the lawyer plans to provide. Many of the consumer bankruptcy “mills” advertise a low price but their services are very limited and exclude many of the customary services. Thus, your fee will increase exponentially to file your case. Also, it is important to know if there are any other expenses that may be incurred during the process that may be charged to you. With a lawyer, as with so many other goods and services, you get what you pay for.
Randy M. Creighton, Esq.