How to Find a Reasonably Priced Bankruptcy Attorney?

If you are facing bankruptcy you are probably experiencing severe financial problems. The last thing you want is to incur more expenses. You may be thinking that you would not even need a bankruptcy attorney if you could afford to have one in the first place. However, one of the expenses you should never cut back on is a good bankruptcy attorney. The field of bankruptcy is a complicated one with many minefields. You cannot go without the expertise or skill of a good bankruptcy attorney during this process. There are far too many opportunities to get something wrong and destroy your entire case. You will be much better off if you hire a bankruptcy attorney. What is complicated for the every day man and woman on the street is a daily activity for bankruptcy attorneys.

How Much Does a Bankruptcy Attorney Cost?
There is no fixed fee for a bankruptcy attorney so it is impossible to predict exactly how much you will have to pay your attorney. There are many things that determine the fees (continue reading to learn more about them). But, it is possible to make a general estimation of how much you should expect to pay. Note that the fee that you pay is for his or her service and assistance. It is not the total mount that you will have to pay for the entire process. For example, when you file for bankruptcy you will have to pay a filing fee. For now, you can pay something from $800.00 to $2,000.00 in case your case is a normal one.

What Determines Bankruptcy Attorney Fees?

– Location:
The area in which you find a bankruptcy attorney will greatly determine the fees that you have to pay for his or her services. For example, if you hire an attorney in the Upper East Side of Manhattan you will have to pay more attorney fees than someone who hires an attorney in Brooklyn which is a cheaper area of New York City. If you live in an expensive area you can save on the fees by hiring an attorney from a different location. Just make sure that the attorney you hire has experience in the court in which you are filing as procedures sometimes differ from court to court.

– If you want to save money on bankruptcy attorney fees you should talk directly to the attorney that you are interested in hiring. Firstly, only the attorney will be able to tell you exactly how much you will have to pay for their services. Also, many attorneys are willing to negotiate their fees. If you are in a very bad situation you can use this to show the attorney your financial limitations and have them bring down their fees for you. Note that if your case is a very complex one it will be harder to renegotiate attorney fees as your case will not be run of the mill and will require more time and expertise on the part of the attorney. They too have financial responsibilities.

– If you really do not want to pay a large amount of bankruptcy attorney fees you should consider hiring an attorney who has just completed his training. Their fees will be significantly lower than an attorney who has had many years of expertise handling different kinds of bankruptcies. However, only hire an inexperienced attorney if your case is fairly standard and will not be a challenge for them. If your case is a complex one, you cannot take the risk of hiring someone inexperienced who could mess things up for you.

Attorney Negligence: Did It Cost You Your Case?

Attorney Negligence: Did It Cost You Your Case?

Statistics show that legal malpractice claims have become more frequent for the last three decades. There are several instances where a client loses confidence in the abilities of his lawyer because the latter made matters worse instead of providing a resolution to the problem. If you suffered damages due to your lawyer’s wrongful conduct, may it be due to his negligence or intentional act, you may consider the option of bringing a legal malpractice action. However, proving a legal malpractice claim could be challenging as it often involves extensive search for appropriate arguments and corroborating evidence. Despite the existence of actual damages, there are other factors that need to be examined to determine whether a claim of legal malpractice should be filed.

Damages

If the client can prove that the attorney’s negligence or wrongful act resulted in damages, such damages could be recovered by filing a legal malpractice lawsuit. However, there are cases where damages are not easily ascertainable. In such cases, the California Supreme Court held that recovery of damages could still be awarded even if the existence and the cause of such damages are difficult to determine. On the most part, however, damages that are based on speculation or mere threat of future harm are usually not awarded by California courts.

Clients are likely to be more successful with the recovery of so-called “direct” damages. These are damages that have been the direct result of an attorney’s negligence or misconduct. For instance, in a case where an attorney wrongfully advises his client to file for bankruptcy and sell his home for a lower price than its market value, the court is likely to award the client damages to the extent of what he lost from the sale. In another case, a California court awarded damages to a physician due to the loss of his good reputation and the increase in premiums for his medical malpractice insurance due to his attorney’s negligence.

If the client can show clear and convincing evidence that the attorney can be held liable for fraud, malice or oppression, even punitive damages may be recovered, see California Civil Code § 3294. However, client-plaintiffs who have been denied the award of compensatory damages will not be entitled to punitive damages. In general, it is more difficult to prove the existence of punitive damages as courts usually require specific facts to prove that the attorney acted with oppression, fraud or malice. In one rare case, the court of appeals awarded punitive damages due to an attorney’s “conscious disregard of plaintiff’s safety”. In that case, the attorney, who was also a physician, advised his client to postpone the surgery in order to strengthen their medical malpractice lawsuit even though he knew about the urgency of a surgery.

Furthermore, if the client-plaintiff lost his claim for punitive damages in the underlying action, it is very unlikely that courts will award him punitive damages in a legal malpractice lawsuit. The California Supreme Court held that such damages are based on speculation and plaintiffs should not be entitled to damages that cannot be proven with certainty. Otherwise, lawyers would be exposed to more risks of liability, resulting in an increase in the cost of malpractice insurance.

Attorney Negligence

In a legal malpractice action based on the attorney’s negligence, the courts will look into four factors. First, the client-plaintiff needs to show that the attorney-defendant has the obligation to apply the skill, prudence and diligence required from his profession. Second, there has to be proof that the attorney failed to fulfill the above mentioned duty. Third, the client-plaintiff also needs to show that the attorney’s breach of his duty resulted in the damages he suffered. Lastly, as mentioned above, the client-plaintiff needs to present evidence of the existence of such damages and not just mere speculation. According to the California Supreme Court, client-plaintiffs who are facing criminal charges need to prove their actual innocence before they can bring an action against their attorneys. This way, the clients who have been found guilty by a criminal court would not be allowed to go after their attorneys and recover civil damages. An exception to this rule is a malpractice action that is not based on the quality of legal services provided by the attorney. For instance, a fee dispute between the client and the attorney can still be pursued in court even if the client was charged by a criminal court because such a dispute merely involves the attorney’s billing practices.

Typical Cases of Malpractice

The most common basis of malpractice action is the failure of an attorney to adhere to the deadlines set by the Code of Civil Procedure as well as other statutory filing deadlines. As mentioned above, attorneys are expected to apply the required skill, prudence and diligence in providing legal services. The failure to file a lawsuit, initiate a proceeding or bring an action within the so-called statutes of limitation could constitute a strong claim for legal malpractice.

An attorney can also be held liable if the court in the underlying case issues a default judgment against his client due to his failure to file a pleading, see California Code of Civil Procedure § 585. Furthermore, if he fails to relieve his client from the default by filing a motion in a timely manner, namely within six months after the issuance of the default judgment, the client would have another ground to file a malpractice lawsuit against him assuming that the motion could have been successful.

It is also possible to hold an attorney liable for not raising viable defenses in a legal action. In such cases, however, the client-plaintiff needs to show that the defenses that were not asserted can be proven in court and would have led to a more favorable result. In one case, for instance, a California court denied the award of damages to the plaintiff because the attorney decided to leave out weak defenses.

In general, attorneys have an obligation to adhere to their clients’ preferences particularly with regard to legal decisions involving their substantive rights. The failure to follow these instructions can be a basis for a malpractice action. In one case, for instance, a California court held an attorney liable for his failure to file a complaint despite of his client’s specific instructions to do so.

However, courts have held that an attorney can make decisions without his client’s consent if authority has been given in an agreement. Decisions involving procedural matters are also instances where attorneys can act independently. California courts have not yet drawn the line as to how to differentiate procedural matters and legal decisions. Thus, establishing a legal malpractice action based on the failure to adhere to clients’ instructions could pose several challenges. On the other hand, courts have consistently held that attorneys are not obliged to follow instructions that can result in an illegal or unethical conduct. Furthermore, an attorney can reject a case if he determines in good faith that the case lacks merit.

Another frequent basis for a legal malpractice action involves settlements. According to the California Rules of Professional Conduct, an attorney needs to provide his client specific information pertaining to the settlement such as the amount, and the terms and conditions of the offer, see California Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 3-510. To be successful with a malpractice action, a client-plaintiff needs to prove three things. First, there has to be evidence showing the attorney’s failure to inform the client about the settlement (or parts of the settlement). Second, the client-plaintiff needs to attest that he would have accepted the settlement offer if he had known about it (or had sufficient information about it). Last, evidence should be presented that the client would have benefited more from the settlement than the actual outcome of the case. The amount of damages in such a case will be determined by the difference between the actual outcome of the case and what the client-plaintiff would have received from the settlement offer.

Statutes of Limitation

In general, clients can file a legal malpractice lawsuit one year after the discovery of circumstances that support the malpractice claim or four years after the attorney’s act of misconduct, whichever comes first, see California Code Civil Procedure § 340.6(a). There are, however, exceptions to this general rule that could prolong the periods of limitation, giving plaintiffs more time to file a lawsuit. For instance, periods where the plaintiff is physically unable to bring a legal malpractice action against his attorney will be considered as tolled. The same applies to cases where the attorney-defendant is still representing the client-plaintiff in the same case where the attorney’s misconduct is at issue. In such cases, the time limit for bringing a legal malpractice action could be exceeded.

Seeking Legal Advice

The success of a legal malpractice lawsuit will mainly depend on the evidence and arguments which will support the claim that the attorney has been negligent in representing his client. Even procedural matters such as determining the applicable deadline could pose some challenges as well. Thus, in cases that involve complex issues, consulting a lawyer who is experienced in legal malpractice cases is inevitable in order to prevent the occurrence of further damages to the client.

Sources:
California Code of Civil Procedure
California Rules of Professional Conduct

For further reading:
George Lindahl J.D., California Torts, 2012
Suzan Herskowitz Singer, Attorney Responsibilities & Client Rights, 2003
Robert W. Schachner Esq., How & When to Sue Your Lawyer, What You Need to Know, 2005

Common Mistakes Associated With Bankruptcy Attorney Fees

Bankruptcy attorney fees differ when filing for bankruptcy. Different fees will be charged by lawyers for the two types of insolvency i.e. chapter 7 and chapter 13. Moreover, if the debtor can somehow prove financial hardship then the bankruptcy attorney fees can be completely waived off. The most common mistake that many people make when dealing with an attorney is that they simply accept any level of fees that the attorney quote for them in order to secure their services. Many will not ask questions or request the attorney to justify the fee. The efficiency of the attorney in dealing with your case should be questioned and should be in line with the insolvency attorney fees being demanded.

Clients who have filed for insolvency and are looking for a good attorney who will represent them in the best way possible will also make the big mistake of paying the bankruptcy attorney fees using their credit card. This is because they assume that the credit card debt has been wiped out. If the transaction is successful, the creditor might claim that the debtor had the money all along and was even able to meet the bankruptcy attorney fees. He might claim that the debtor filed for insolvency so as to avoid paying the debt and this might impact negatively on your case. The best thing that you can do is to agree on some sort of payment plan with the lawyer so as to avoid such problems.

You should disclose every last detail including all of your assets and financial state to your attorney. There are people who file for insolvency so that they can avoid foreclosures, repossessions, and wage garnishes. Hiding the assets that you would wish to retain from your lawyer will only lead to the eventual loss of these pieces of property. Your attorney will be in a better position to advise you about the situation and give you all the solutions that will help you make a favorable decision if you give him/her more information. Attorney fees will probably incorporate this fact.

The bankruptcy attorney fees should be one of the top priorities of the debtor and he/she should realize that if he/she is able to pay or disburse his debts adequately then the bankruptcy attorney fees will not be difficult for you to manage. You will be able to pay the fee within no time and ultimately be able to service your debts as per the agreement between the debtor and creditors.

Experienced attorneys will normally give the client time to sort out his finances before pressuring him on bankruptcy attorney fees. The less experienced attorneys will want to receive a small deposit of their fees before commencing the job. The major portion of the bankruptcy attorney fees should be retained to pay to the attorney once the job has been done. Any attorney who states otherwise is most often not a very experienced attorney and might not be able to adequately represent you when it comes to your case. Bankruptcy attorney fees can be managed very well if both parties can agree.

The issue of bankruptcy attorney fees is quite sensitive especially if insolvency has left the client in financial ruins. A clear way forward in terms of attorney payment should be agreed upon. The bankruptcy attorney fees might be quite high and it is need to manage it effectively. Most attorneys will want a written guarantee that you will be able to pay them for representing you. If you are unable to pay the insolvency fees, then it is important to discuss it with the attorney so that you can both reach an agreement which is favorable to everyone.