Unforeseen circumstances in your life can leave you in a financial hole with seemingly no way out. Fortunately, there are ways to get creditors off your back and begin your journey to financial freedom.

Filing for bankruptcy is not easy and having a skilled bankruptcy attorney by your side can provide many advantages. An attorney can find ways to shorten the time you spend in bankruptcy and reduce the amount of debt you have to pay back.

But how do you find a bankruptcy attorney who is right for you and who has the necessary experience in California bankruptcy law?

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How to Find a Bankruptcy Attorney

Your first task will be to identify the best candidates in your area. You can depend on websites that will quickly direct you to bankruptcy attorneys with offices nearby. You must exercise caution while on these sites because a law firm’s appearance on them doesn’t always mean they have earned any sort of approval or have met a certain standard.

The National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys website is a commonplace to start. Two other resources you may try are the American Bar Association and the California Bar Association websites. The California Bar Association offers a page to find certified lawyer referral services in your area that in turn offer you local recommendations.

It’s always best to search on sites that have client ratings included in profiles. However, you must be wary of these ratings.  Sometimes a high rating can end up skewed because there are too few reviewers or through the use of positive reviews submitted by the lawyer’s family and friends.Man writing down notes while working on his laptop

Focus on California Bankruptcy Lawyers

When seeking out a bankruptcy lawyer, you can easily narrow your search by only considering attorneys who only focus on bankruptcy law.

Bankruptcy law in California is complicated and you don’t need an attorney without bankruptcy court experience gaining his or her footing while representing your case. Bankruptcy attorneys should have a strong case history. Their law firm should focus on bankruptcy or have an entire department that only handles bankruptcy law.

Bankruptcy Attorney Referrals and References

There are many bankruptcy lawyers who will grab your attention through flashy websites while making hard-to-believe promises. But a successful attorney with a long history of successfully guiding people through bankruptcy has no problem getting positive attention simply through satisfied clients.

The comments of former clients can help you determine what it’s like to work with a certain bankruptcy attorney. Ask a bankruptcy lawyer you’re considering if you can contact clients they’ve helped in the past. These references can show just what sort of experience you’re in for.

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Talk to people you know. You should ask friends and family members if they’ve ever had to use a bankruptcy lawyer and if they’d recommend him or her.

If you’ve hired lawyers in other fields of law, ask them about colleagues or friends they’d suggest. Referrals from other well-established lawyers are one of the most reliable ways to uncover the best bankruptcy attorneys in the area.

Considering Legal Aid

There are several organizations in California that provide low-cost or free legal services to those who can’t afford legal representation. These services are only available to people with very little income.

Not every office provides help with bankruptcy, but some do. The California Court System website provides links to Legal Aid Offices in California’s bigger cities.

Questions to Ask Your Bankruptcy Attorney

Once you’ve narrowed down your search to a few qualified candidates, you should meet with each one for a free consultation and interview.

There are a few questions you should make them answer and a few details you should work out before signing on to let them represent you:

  • Ask bankruptcy attorneys about their backgrounds and about the cases they’ve represented that are similar to yours.
  • Discuss your situation and ask the lawyer about the path they’d recommend. Whether they’d guide you towards a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy or another option.
  • Find out how much they charge for their legal services.
  • Decide if you and your lawyer are able to communicate effectively. This is an important factor because you’ll work closely together for several months or longer.
  • Find out who will actually cover your case and who will sit with you during hearings.Calculator and data sheet

What Do Bankruptcy Attorneys Charge for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

The fees bankruptcy attorneys will charge you will depend on several factors. When they expect payment of this fee can also vary.

  • Location: In cities like Los Angeles, the higher cost of living can mean bankruptcy lawyers will charge you more.
  • Experience: A lawyer with a prestigious reputation and a successful track record may cost you more. Keep in mind that the experience they bring to the table may also prove to make your bankruptcy much easier and allow you to keep more of your money and assets.
  • Complexity: If your case involves a lot of assets and business holdings to sort out, your attorney spends more time on your case. When you’re going through a divorce or other domestic challenges, a filing becomes considerably more complex.

Most attorneys take all of this into consideration and come up with a  flat fee for a potential client. The average for this service is around $1,500. Around major metro areas like Los Angeles, the fee will be closer to $2,000.

Some lawyers allow a payment plan for this fee, but more often, the fee is paid before the bankruptcy is filed.

What Do Bankruptcy Attorneys Charge for a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?

A Chapter 13 Bankruptcy filing is considerably more complex than a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Chapter 13 filings require the formation of a three to five-year plan for the debtor to pay off a portion of his or her debt.

The attorney maintains responsibility for a Chapter 13 case over this entire span. There is a court-appointed fee for legal services provided in Chapter 13 cases in the Central District of California, ranging between $5000 and $6000.

Contact a Bankruptcy Lawyer Serving Southern California

Facing a tough financial stretch, you may have to consider hiring a bankruptcy attorney. Choosing the right lawyer can have a major impact on the success of your filing. A mistake at this point can cause you more financial damage and leave you in debt longer. It’s vital to seek out a bankruptcy lawyer with the skill and experience to handle your case and make sure you maximize the benefits of your bankruptcy.

The bankruptcy attorneys with the Law Offices of Steers and Associates have worked with hundreds of California residents to put together a successful bankruptcy petition and helped them emerge successfully on the other end of the filing process.

When you face bankruptcy in Los Angeles or anywhere across Southern California, please contact us as soon as possible. We offer a free and confidential consultation to anyone considering bankruptcy. Let us help you determine your best move.

You can find our online guide to bankruptcy here: The Ultimate Guide to California Bankruptcy