Bankruptcy Attorneys in Kansas – Top Five Things To Look For
There are many bankruptcy attorneys in Kansas, however, when you need one, how do you know which one to choose? Coons & Crump, LLC, are Kansas bankruptcy attorneys with offices in three cities, Topeka, Overland Park and Lawrence. First, you should have some basic knowledge about the types of consumer bankruptcy available.
Most people who are drowning in debt will be looking at Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Chapter 7 is a basic case, sometimes referred to as a Fresh Start bankruptcy. You pay the fees to the bankruptcy attorneys before filing. With Chapter 7 you are generally discharging debts such as credit cards, medical bills, and personal loans. You continue to pay secured debts if you want to keep the property securing the loan. It will not correct or fix a default if you are behind on a car or house loan. It can be very effective if planned out correctly but there are always some risks. It will be very disappointing if it is done incorrectly as you could lose assets or worse.
Chapter 13, the Wage Earners bankruptcy, is a more complex case. Fees are paid through the case (not upfront) and you are making a payment into a bankruptcy trustee for anywhere from 36 to 60 months. You are usually filing this kind of case because you are trying to keep a car, a house, pay tax debt, stop a student loan garnishment, or simply have no upfront money to do a Chapter 7. It is generally more effective than a chapter 7 and more expensive but nowhere near as dangerous.
Hiring the right bankruptcy attorneys is crucial to getting the right outcome for your debt situation. For this reason, you will need to do some research before you choose. Here are the top five things to look for in bankruptcy attorneys:
- Getting Your Money’s Worth
- Expertise and Experience
- Knowledge of Local Rules and Practices
- Support Staff
Getting Your Money’s Worth
You should have an idea of the value that will be provided by filing the bankruptcy. Your attorney should explain to you the differences between the types of bankruptcy and what options exist outside of bankruptcy and how cost-effective the bankruptcy is compared to other options. Understanding the differences between bankruptcies and those other options can give you a real idea of whether it is financially worth it to file a case.
Once you have decided to file a case the fee for the bankruptcy attorneys services will be a key element in deciding who to hire. After all, if you had money you wouldn’t be filing in most cases. Attorney’s fees for filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 are often in the thousands of dollars, depending on where you live. You need to make sure you are going to get exactly what you need from the bankruptcy attorneys to help justify the fees.
Most bankruptcy lawyers use a standard agreement for a basic Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. The fee should include an initial consultation and analysis of your financial situation; review and preparation for filing the bankruptcy petition; attending the meeting of creditors (a 341 meeting) and following-up with creditors – such as taking action to stop any post-filing collection efforts. In many cases, it will be a flat fee for basic work and hourly for work beyond that.
In Chapter 13 the fee should also include preparation of the reorganization plan and representation at the confirmation hearing. You should make sure these services are all clearly spelled out in the representation agreement.
Bankruptcy attorneys are required to abide by certain rules with respect to fees and in many places those fees are at least partially controlled by the courts. Often this means the fees charged by the attorneys are almost the same from office to office. This makes the other factors that follow even more important since the cost is going to be roughly the same between offices.
Expertise & Experience
Technically, any attorney can handle a bankruptcy, but hiring someone with no experience in bankruptcy is probably a bad idea. While years of general practice are often a good measure of an attorney’s qualifications it isn’t the only thing to look at. It is often the percentage of the attorney’s practice that constitutes bankruptcy and how many bankruptcy cases the attorney has filed that are more important. Ask the attorneys you meet with detailed questions. If they include a lot of different practice areas in addition to bankruptcy, for example, you might be better served to find a lawyer who focuses on bankruptcy or at least has a more limited scope of practice.
The answers to your questions are critical; if the attorneys are evasive and don’t satisfy you with their answers, they may not be the right bankruptcy attorneys for you. Ask how many bankruptcies they have handled and how many bankruptcy cases they handle in a month or a year. Ask if they are handling business cases or consumer bankruptcy cases. Find out if they represent creditors like banks or if they limit their practice to debtors. A good bankruptcy lawyer will explain the process of filing bankruptcy and discuss with you all the pertinent issues that you need to know up front.
Knowledge of Local Rules and Practices
The Bankruptcy code reform increased the complexity of consumer bankruptcy cases. Even today the law is changing and often what is appropriate in one court is not appropriate in another court. Your attorney should be knowledgeable about the local rules in the bankruptcy court where they practice. Each court has its own way of handling cases, and you want your lawyer to be able to navigate not only the bankruptcy law but the nuances of how the local court works. Every court has local rules and they impact your case differently from place to place.
Ask the bankruptcy attorney how your case might be impacted by the bankruptcy code and the local rules; they should be able to give you an idea about your potential outcomes at your initial consultation.
You must decide if you want to hire someone that does everything themselves or if you want a firm where there are support staff. Your attorney’s time is valuable and there is a lot to do in running a bankruptcy case. Support staff helps an office run much of the time, checking calendars, handling mailings, posting documents, and enabling the lawyer to focus on applying the law to the facts of the case. An office with no support staff is limited in terms of how much work can be handled and what can be done in a given day. If your lawyer is handling every administrative task then they can often be overwhelmed.
You should be on the lookout for red flags that could indicate your lawyer does not have enough support staff. Are there files piled up everywhere? Do phone calls go unreturned? What happens if your attorney is ill or unavailable? An attorney’s office should have all of this planned out beforehand.
You need to trust that you can communicate with your bankruptcy attorney and that they can explain things to you. There should be no concept your bankruptcy attorney cannot explain in normal language. Many ideas in bankruptcy sound unusual at first but your attorney should be able to go over them with examples to help you understand what they mean and how they will affect your case.
If you find that your communication with your attorney is constantly filled with legalese and your lawyer never explains anything then it may be difficult to make your case work. You should not expect to become a bankruptcy attorney after your lawyer explains things but you should expect that it makes sense at least at the time you went over it with them. If it does not then there is a problem.
To find out more about how Coons & Crump, LLC, can help you with through bankruptcy protection, call one of our convenient locations today and schedule your free consultation. We take the guesswork out of filing bankruptcy. We are dedicated to providing the best legal representation to our clients in the most efficient and knowledgeable way. Our experience includes representation for people just like you in over three thousand consumer bankruptcy cases. Put that experience to work for you today.
Topeka – Call today! 785-783-2360
Lawrence – 785-856-8720
Overland Park – 913-353-4044