by Doris Donnerman
(last updated February 21, 2009)
If you're thinking about filing for bankruptcy, you'll probably need a bankruptcy lawyer to help you navigate the waters. Not only can they help you decide if bankruptcy is right for you—usually during a no-cost initial interview—, they're indispensable for getting through the filing process with your sanity intact.
Internet search engines can be useful tools for locating a lawyer who can help you, but watch out. The internet isn't always reliable, and there are a lot of phony corporations out there, many of whom will try to take your money and disappear. However, any local phone book will have lists and lists of lawyers and their specialties, as well as your local bar associations, and these lawyers are generally (but not always) more trustworthy. Also, while a generalist lawyer may be les expensive than a specialist, the chances are that you'll want a certified bankruptcy lawyer for their intense and focused knowledge of the field.
Whatever method you choose to find lawyers names, you shouldn't make a decision without comparison shopping; go talk to a few lawyers before settling on one to represent you. Most lawyers offer free consultation interviews, but check with their offices when you make your appointment. Remember, just because you interview with a lawyer does not mean you owe them your business. Don't feel guilted into your choice, and even if you like your first try, don't stop looking until you've seen several different options. If possible, contact former clients. They'll be able to tell you what you want, but be aware here as well; the firm itself won't direct you to anyone who had a bad experience with them, but that doesn't mean such people don't exist.
Above all, you need to feel comfortable with your lawyer. Make sure that their style of business suits you and your needs and their expertise is sufficient for your unique case. Finally, before you sign any kind of contract, make sure you understand and accept what you're agreeing to.
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