It seems the newest specialty for bankruptcy lawyers is fixing mucked-up cases from other lawyers.
The extra cost of repairing a case gone bad is only half the problem. Not all the problems created by the bargain basement lawyer can be fixed.
Even when the case can be saved, the clients will end up paying twice: one to the cheapo lawyer, and once to us to clean it up.
Undoubtedly, they’ll pay more than if they’d paid for competent counsel to do it right the first time.
We have cases where big ticket assets were omitted. We have cases where the initial attorney just didn’t persist with the debtor to get the schedules right, and ones where counsel didn’t explore the choice of chapter.
Almost without exception, the debtors chose counsel based on price. They went with the lower price for their bankruptcy case, and they bought a rat’s nest.
Cost conscious only at the end
Why is it that notions of economy only surface after a client has wracked up tens of thousands of dollars in debt?
Many of the debtors gave more thought to credit card expenditures or purchases of investment real estate during the boom than they give to picking a bankruptcy lawyer.
The influx of lawyers to this field and the prevalence of lawyer advertising suggest bankruptcy law is a commodity. Lawyers with no track record to tout or past clients to spread the word compete on price. If you can buy a $15 toaster, why pay $30? goes the thinking.
What a lawyer adds
The existence of non lawyer petition preparers and do-it-yourself books reinforce the idea that bankruptcy is more like playing Go Fish than contract bridge.
Then, there are the official forms, suggesting that filing bankruptcy is all about the paper and not about the disclosure the paper requires.
And disclosure is what the forms are all about, and the system wants disclosure because there may be consequences to the stuff disclosed.
Quality of counsel is not reliably correlated with price: I’ve seen some utter newbie lawyers charging more than highly skilled veterans for an inferior product. But capable counsel is seldom the cheapest.
So, my charge to those needing bankruptcy relief is to consider that hiring the least expensive lawyer is a poor bargain.
Another time, I’ll talk about how to assess a lawyer’s suitability for your case.
Image courtesy of purpleslog.