What You Must Know About Choosing a Bankruptcy Attorney

Before consulting with a bankruptcy attorney, it will be helpful to know that there are four main types of bankruptcy: Chapters 7, 11, 12 and 13. Only two, chapters 7 and 13 are personal bankruptcy options. The remaining two forms of bankruptcy, chapters 11 and 12 and for corporations and agricultural purposes respectively.

The first step you will want to take when choosing a bankruptcy attorney in the Kansas City area is finding out the practice areas of your attorney. Some attorneys practice specifically in bankruptcy related matters. Other attorneys have a more general practice where they may cover several practice areas with bankruptcy being one of many.

Other attorneys may have a general practice but they want to try bankruptcy out because of the recent developments in the economy. If this is the case and the attorney is a solo-practitioner, you will want to make sure that you ask if the attorney has a reference source by which he or she is able to get help concerning the things he or she may not know. The practice of bankruptcy law is extremely intricate and sometimes the slightest mistake can be the difference between whether the debtor receives a discharge or a dismissed case.

The next thing a potential debtor will want to know is which type of bankruptcy law the attorney practices. Again, there are some attorneys who concentrate specifically on chapter 7 bankruptcy work. Those attorneys may choose to concentrate on chapter 7 work because it is less complicated than the chapter 13 work. Generally, chapter 7 debtors will not have substantial assets and they are procedurally less tenuous than a chapter 13. This does not mean that there are Kansas City Bankruptcy attorneys, who concentrate on Chapter 7 bankruptcy law, who take chapter 13 cases.

Another valuable piece of information that a potential bankruptcy debtor will want to discover is whether the attorney will appear with the debtor at the meeting of creditors. Once the paper work has been completed and the documents have been filed with the Bankruptcy Court, the Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Missouri will schedule what is called a 341 meeting.

This meeting is also referred to as “The First Meeting of Creditors.” It will be the first opportunity for the debtor to meet with the bankruptcy trustee and to confront any creditors who may want to prevent the bankruptcy from occurring. The attorney may not be privy to anyone wanting to challenge the discharge of the debtor before the meeting of creditors.

If the debtor’s attorney is not able to appear at the meeting of creditors, a replacement attorney will need to be selected. The debtor not having an attorney is generally not a good idea because the trustee may want certain documents sent to the trustee’s office within a short period of time or the trustee may have more specific questions that the debtor may not be able to answer.

If this were to happen, the debtor would need an attorney there who has a copy of the bankruptcy petition. Generally when a debtor attempts to conduct a meeting of creditors without the presence of an attorney, the debtor will not have all the information to adequately satisfy the inquiries of the trustee.

The next thing that a potential debtor will want to know when potentially choosing a Kansas City bankruptcy attorney is what is included in the attorney fee. This may vary from attorney to attorney. Generally, the attorney fee will be a flat fee that will include the bankruptcy petition filing fee. Currently, this fee is $300. However, the list of attorney duties could vary. Some attorneys will cover everything from start to finish with the fee that is paid.

Other attorneys may charge an additional fee if the petition has to be amended or if the trustee requires meetings outside of the meeting of creditors. Generally these fees will be covered in the contract for legal representation. If they are not, the potential debtor will want to discuss these issues with the potential Kansas City bankruptcy attorney.

These are a few things that a potential debtor will want to investigate when choosing a Kansas City bankruptcy attorney. The choice of an attorney is an important one and it should not be based solely on advertisement alone.

Cost of Filing Bankruptcy Using Attorney – Why Debtors Can Better Afford Bankruptcy Without Attorney

Bankruptcy: costs of filing bankruptcy with attorney, versus cost of filing using Bankruptcy Petition Preparer.

Under the current U.S. Bankruptcy Code or law, the system provides essentially TWO basic categories of outside assistance that a debtor filing for bankruptcy may use – assistance provided by an attorney, and assistance provided by a non-lawyer. And both of these parties come under what is called “Debt Relief Agents or Agencies.” Basically, the non-attorney assistance provider, who also goes by a name such as Bankruptcy Petition Preparer (BPP), preparers the documents upon which bankruptcy is filed with the Court for bankruptcy processing, while the attorney (or, more accurately, the help he hires that does such work) prepares the same set of documents, EXCEPT that the lawyer assistance-provider can supposedly give a debtor “legal advice,” and can appear, on the debtor’s behalf, in the administrative hearing on the bankruptcy case administered by the Court “Trustee” (who is not a Judge, but a court-appointed administrator) that will oversee the bankruptcy case.

Alright, How Do the Services and Fees Compare, Between the Bankruptcy Attorney and those of the Full Service bankruptcy petition preparer?

But what are the Costs of filing Bankruptcy using Bankruptcy attorney? Can debtors afford bankruptcy without lawyers? And, is there really any real, tangible, legitimate difference for the DEBTOR, both qualitatively and nominally, between the Full Service bankruptcy assistance that online-based non-attorney BPP agencies provide debtors, and that which is provided by online bankruptcy attorneys to debtors?

One view of it, popular in certain quarters among non-attorney online providers of bankruptcy filing assistance, is simply that there is “no difference,” or “little to none,” in terms of the actual or qualitative value of their work products for the debtor. The principal argument is that for each side, the actual, principal work that each side does or turns up for the debtor – the relatively simple but time-consuming, paperwork required to be prepared for the debtor’s use in filing for bankruptcy – is more or less basically the same content and quality for the non-lawyer prepared document, as it is for the lawyer prepared. In each case, the argument goes, the same set of documents are turned up by people who are seemingly experienced and trained or skilled in document preparation, and, in deed, in many real instances, are one and the same paralegals who work, or might have previously worked, for the bankruptcy lawyer’s office or the non-lawyer document preparer’s company. Or for both.

But, in any event, in the final analysis, the finished bankruptcy documents that both sides, the lawyer as well as the non-lawyer, provide the debtor, are generally the same and of the same quality. The Bankruptcy Courts generally accept them, process them, and act on them, just the same! In deed, it is a specific provision in the Bankruptcy Code that authorizes and sanctions that such persons may prepare such documents, and not just lawyers!

The Prices the non-attorney helper charges and what the attorney charges for Bankruptcy work

To a hard pressed and destitute debtor, the vexing, bothersome issue, is what justification, then, is there for the great disparity that exists in the prices the bankruptcy lawyers charge for bankruptcy work, relative to what the non-attorney bankruptcy document preparers charge for turning up essentially the same work for the debtor? Bankruptcy lawyers would, of course, advance all sorts of convoluted arguments and conceive all kinds of fancy justifications in defense of their extremely higher and disproportionate charges. That aspect, however, is a matter for another place and another day for us.

But is it a matter of no bankruptcy attorney, and cheap, low-low cost bankruptcy? For the benefit and information of debtors contemplating bankruptcy, just so you’ll at least have an idea, here are the differences in prices between what the non-lawyer assistance-provider charges, and what the attorney assistance-provider charges.

NON-ATTORNEY BANKRUPTCY HELPER’S SERVICES & PRICES

Service: In full Service bankruptcy work, the service of the non-lawyer debt relief agent or agency basically involves their staff gathering the various documents and required tons of papers and information together, and orderly arranging them and preparing all the legal forms and paperwork required by the debtor to file for bankruptcy with the bankruptcy court. For the better ones among them (they are not at all equal, some are far better than others, and quite a number of them are just about worthless!), these agencies use workers who are often highly trained and experienced paralegals (they average several years of work and/or training in the industry), and who are skilled at the preparation of legal documents and bankruptcy papers, and are often well versed and knowledgeable in bankruptcy filing law and procedures. With the Full Service bankruptcy petition preparers (at least those of them who are of the reputable and better categories), the debtor tends generally to get a better service and greater attention, and more one-on-one interaction for his or her case, along with the obvious far lower prices.

The Charges. There is usually a ONE-Time PAYMENT ONLY amount. One of such agency’s charge, for example, is $239 for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy; and $359 for Chapter 13. The price charged by these agencies tend strictly to follow an honest, upfront pricing that’s based ONLY on “per project,” rather than on “per hour.” (That’s in contrast to the attorneys’ charges, which are frequently based on “per hour” hourly rate).

This means that, once a reputable Bankruptcy Petition Preparer (BPP) takes any case from a debtor, you pay the BPP Agency, assuming it’s, say, a Chapter 7 case, just $239, and NOT a penny more on it, ever – no matter how many creditors you have (whether they’re 10 or 20, or 200), or you happen to start out with 10 creditors, but turn up 100 or 200 more later. Or, you have to file some additional papers to get some of your secured debts “affirmed” so you can keep, say, your car, etc. YOU JUST PAY THEM NOT ONE PENNY MORE. PERIOD! Thus, for most debtors, bankruptcy with no bankruptcy attorney assistance, offers the debtor low-low affordable costs and rates and is the only way to go.

The Time line. For the credible BPP, it takes an average of roughly one to two days to crank out the prepared, almost completed package of bankruptcy documents for, say, a Chapter 7 case filing (in a case, that is, where the debtor has hastened and substantially provides them the required financial information and documents necessary to do the papers). As a matter of policy, however, the BPP will hold off furnishing the papers to the debtor right away just so that the finishing touches, corrections and proper checking can be made before the debtor gets them. Bankruptcy, file with no bankruptcy attorney?

THE BANKRUPTCY ATTORNEYS’ SERVICES & PRICES

Service: What the bankruptcy lawyer (that is, the one who is competent and knowledgeable in bankruptcy, as not all attorneys are so equipped) does, is essentially akin to the Full Service bankruptcy type of work that the non-lawyer assistance-provider provides. Here, this involves the lawyer – or, more accurately, a staff of paralegals the he or she might have hired to actually do the work – gathering the various documents and required tons of documents and information together, and orderly arranging them, and preparing all the legal forms and paperwork required to file for the debtor’s bankruptcy with the bankruptcy court. As with the case of the non-attorney Full Service paper preparation providers, these workers who directly do the papers (the ones who are the persons that actually do the work in the lawyers’ the lawyers), are often highly trained and experienced paralegals (average several years of work and/or training in the industry) who are skilled at preparation of legal documents and bankruptcy papers, and often, well versed in bankruptcy filing law and procedures.

Furthermore, in terms of quality of service, with the lawyers, within the ranks of the lawyers who do bankruptcy work in the current times, those who file the bulk of the bankruptcy cases seem to be what one practicing bankruptcy lawyer, Jonathan Ginsburg, the Atlanta Georgia, calls “high volume filers.” These lawyers file 100 to 500 or more bankruptcy cases per month, using largely paralegals and some younger lawyers to do the paperwork, and for one thing, such high volume filers have a reputation for not offering much in the way of personal attention, but charge somewhat smaller fees relative to the “boutique” bankruptcy lawyers (those who file more limited number of cases) – a “smaller” amount of fees which Attorney Ginsburg admits, however, often still “appear to be too expensive” for some people “even [with] the lower fees and generous terms” that such volume filers think their charges represent.

Lawyers’ Charges: For Chapter 7, there’s the “initial” charge of $2,000 – 2,500; and for Chapter 13, the “initial” charge of $4,000 – $4,500. Unlike the BPP’s prices which strictly follow an honest, upfront pricing that’s based ONLY on one-time-only “per project” basis, the attorneys’ charges are frequently based on “per hour” hourly rate. (For example, the attorneys’ “per hour” hourly rate charge, was given as $228 (per hour) for their services in 2002, according to a respected independent research study, the 2002 Survey of Law Firm Economics, made by Altman Weil Pensa Publication).

Further more, as a rule, the lawyers’ fees for bankruptcy (the same, as well, in other issues) vary from lawyer to lawyer, and from one location to another location, even from a lawyer in one block to another lawyer just in the next block. The original charge (it’s usually referred to as the “initial” charge) you’re quoted by the lawyer, is often only for the run-of-the-mill, routine kind of case – the simplest, most ordinary kind of bankruptcy there is. So, if it turns out that you have, say, more creditors than the “average” (say, above 15 or so, depending on which lawyer or what part of the country), it will mean additional charge slapped onto your “initial” quoted charge. And, it can cost even more if it’s a “complicated” case in the lawyer’s opinion.

And further, God-forbid if there’s “litigation” or some creditor challenge to a debt, that means additional cost for you, a BIG one. If you are in a high-priced urban area, that alone will almost certainly guarantee more cost for you in filing for bankruptcy. Also, your lawyer will generally want his payment made IN FULL and upfront before he’ll represent you, especially if it’s a Chapter 7 case.

The Time line. Lawyers generally take an average of 2 to 3 weeks (if not more) to do the bankruptcy paper work for Chapter 7.

BOTTOM LINE:

In sum, for you as a debtor, what you should know is that bankruptcy lawyers’ generally make the allowance for themselves so they’d be able and in a position, after the “initial” fee shall have been paid them, to tack on additional fees beyond the “initial” fees you are quoted when you first signed on. The fee you are quoted by a lawyer in a bankruptcy case (even if you view it as excessive, already), may not be – and is often not – the final charge; you may still have to pay more. And probably will, generally!

Not so, though, with the non-lawyer bankruptcy assistance provider. Here, in contrast, that same very EXACT amount you’re quoted on day one, is the final and ONLY charge you’ll get, almost always, from them on the case – ever! PERIOD! The motto seems to be, no bankruptcy attorney & cheap, low-low cost bankruptcy!

Do you do your bankruptcy filing using the no attorney bankruptcy assistance, or the attorney?. What do you think?

FURTHER INFORMATION
For more on the details of the fundamental differences between the bankruptcy lawyer’s differential services, costs and benefits to the debtor, as compared to those provided the debtor by the non-lawyer helper’s services, or to find out how you or any others may use the services of one of the major non-attorney Debt Relief Agencies in the field of bankruptcy filing to file for your own bankruptcy, please visit this website: http://WWW.Afford-Bankruptcy.Com

Ask These 5 Questions When Choosing a RESPA Real Estate Attorney

“What the heck is RESPA?”

Many attorneys try to handle real estate matters in addition to their regular practice. Very few lawyers are aware of the complexities of the Real Estate Settlement and Procedures Act (RESPA) enforced by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD.)

RESPA statutes are consumer protection laws that impact virtually all single family to four family homes. RESPA compliance issues and the remedies available to borrowers who have been victimized by unscrupulous mortgage lenders, title companies and other real estate settlement providers are a real challenge. Even for full-time real estate attorneys, RESPA is a very complex statute. You must be careful and ask questions of the attorney you choose in order to make sure you get the proper legal protection that the RESPA statute i is designed to accomplish. Consumers and Businesses alike are protected when RESPA is in compliance.

Question #1

“What RESPA experience do you have?”

No doubt about it. Start with the big one. Real estate laws and regulations are complicated enough without adding RESPA to the equation. Have they prepared marketing agreements that comply? Have they attended RESPA specific training courses and seminars? Have they kept abreast of the most recent HUD guidelines and court cases nationally regarding RESPA? How many RESPA cases and clients have they handled? What types of RESPA cases did they handle? Were the issues similar to yours? What were their results? Don’t be shy!

Question # 2

“What type of reputation does the attorney have?”

This is a tough one to figure out – so do your homework! Is the attorney primarily a transaction attorney or a litigator skilled in courtroom procedures if necessary? Your attorney must have the communication skills necessary to work with the other attorney as well as you. The other attorney, if more knowledgeable on RESPA can run over you and your lawyer. Remember that many cases are won or lost on the attorney’s knowledge and high ethical standards. Check the local Bar association for background. Get references and check them out thoroughly.

Question # 3

“What type of resources does the attorney have?”

No attorney can do everything well. Make sure that your attorney has the resources available to work your case efficiently. Does the attorney have a well established network of experts and fellow attorneys who can network with to add value and expertise to your problem? Some attorneys try to do it all and act as a one man band. Your attorney’s ego should not be larger than your case. A good attorney quickly involves others with higher degrees of expertise in areas where it is needed to represent you properly. The experts they use are a reflection of your new attorney.

Question # 4

“What about communications and follow up?”

The hallmark of a good attorney is the degree of communication he has with his clients. If you have to ask “What’s going on with my case?” then you have a problem. You don’t want to have these types of issues after choosing an attorney. Be blunt and ask how often you will be contacted and updated. How will you be contacted? Will the attorney just send you a form letter or use personal communication and contact? How do you prefer to be contacted? E-mail, phone calls, letters? Ask for it. “Are you too busy to handle me? Are you going to push me to a lower level staffer or junior attorney?” Clear communication and updates can ensure success and results.

Question # 5

“How do they charge?”

Some attorneys charge a flat fee, some charge a contingency based upon results and some charge hourly rates. The type of problem or case generally dictates the type of charge. There is an old saying, “Speed, Efficiency and Price – pick TWO!” The cheapest attorney may not be the best and the most expensive attorney may not be the best either! Make sure that you are not penny wise and dollar foolish. You are choosing an attorney for results. Make sure that your attorney has the financial incentive to work your case efficiently and successfully.