Everyone wants a good bankruptcy lawyer when they’re considering filing bankruptcy.
So, how do you measure a good bankruptcy lawyer?
We Fight For You! screamed the on-line headline for a bankruptcy law firm. That firm clearly thought willingness to fight was the measure.
While I applaud the firm’s energy and commitment, I question their focus.
Filing for bankruptcy shouldn’t result in a fight.
It’s a remedy, not a rumble.
If you’ve struggled with yourself about with the decision to file bankruptcy, actually doing it may seem mundane by comparison. No fights necessary.
So, I thought about what was wrong with the “bankruptcy as a fight” analogy.
Turns out, it was simple.
My motto: We Analyze So There Won’t Be A Fight.
Kinda nerdy, isn’t it. It lacks drama, and doesn’t suggest any vivid photos.
But it represents much better client service.
What a good bankruptcy lawyer does for you
A good bankruptcy lawyer gathers more facts about you, your debts, your assets, your prospects, your marriage, your income and your dependents than you can imagine.
Having determined what brings you to consider bankruptcy, the lawyer assesses three big things:
- Which chapter of bankruptcy furthers your goals
- Is there anything that creditors or trustees could challenge to keep you from your goal
- What things could make it easier to reach that goal.
Your lawyer should be looking for those issues which might provoke a fight, and figuring out how to keep you out of a tussle with any party in the bankruptcy system.
Tools for avoiding conflicts include better information, choice of timing and refining your goals.
A good bankruptcy attorney uses each tool to avoid the fight.
What fights arise in bankruptcy
The most common disputes in bankruptcy cases, Chapter 7’s and Chapter 13’s, revolve around
- Values of assets
- Means test income and deductions
- Transfers of assets made before filing
Careful collection of information and analysis of that information will tell a good bankruptcy lawyer where disputes might arise.
You and your lawyer need to discuss any points of possible conflict and find the best way around them.
Bankruptcy fights I love
The only kind of fight in bankruptcy that I relish is the fight that a creditor picks with my client. The fight usually arises when the creditor does something the law doesn’t allow. Often it involves failing to honor the automatic stay.
The stay requires each and every creditor to stop collection action against the person who has filed bankruptcy and against the person’s property. In Chapter 13, it also protects guarantors and co signors on consumer debts.
Some creditors are too pig headed, ill organized, or simply spiteful to honor the stay. I love a fight to get creditors to do what the law provides. My clients are entitled to the peace the law contemplates.
Most bankruptcies are a snooze not a fight
A well thought out bankruptcy case is generally without conflict or dispute.
Carefully prepared schedules tell the whole story. The trustee reads them, sees no issues, and moves on.
And that’s how it ought to be. It’s not Fight Night. It’s more like yoga. You work hard, but you leave without bruises.
A bankruptcy lawyer friend says her motto is “Do it right, and avoid the fight”. Suits me to a T.
Image courtesy of Kate.Gardiner.