Choosing a lawyer you can talk to is critical.
You’ll be disclosing lots of information normally held confidential.
But there’s more.
It’s not just a lawyer you can tell your secrets to.
You need to find a lawyer whom you can question, over and over, if necessary, until you understand the choices that you must make in filing bankruptcy.
Until you understand the issues and the consequences, you can’t play your position on the bankruptcy team.
Choices after deciding to file
Some things a client doesn’t have to truly understand to file bankruptcy: how the means test works, or doesn’t work, is one of them.
The debtor need only validate some of the information in the form.
But other bankruptcy issues require the client to make choices and perhaps confront risks.
Is the loan repayment to your parents a recoverable preference?
Does the recent use of your credit card make you susceptible to the charge of incurring debt by fraud?
Are you at risk of a UST challenge to your Chapter 7 case as an abuse?
Decisions surrounding these issues are, in the end, the client’s decision. The factors are complex, and in this day of “new” bankruptcy law, sometimes uncertain.
The client needs to feel absolutely comfortable asking their counsel to explain the issue, assess the risks, and explore alternatives with them.
The lawyer needs to be capable of explaining without jargon or presumption.
So I would add to the list of qualities in superior bankruptcy counsel: openness to the layman’s questions.
Great bankruptcy lawyers are willing to restate and reanalyze the options until the client understands. You need to feel comfortable saying you don’t understand and asking that the lawyer try another way to say it.
A lawyer who is not capable of making you a partner in the conduct of the case may end up excluding you from considerations that rightfully belong to you, the client.