Choosing a bankruptcy attorney is a lot like choosing a life partner. You want someone who is smart, compassionate and has the ability to communicate effectively.
According to the latest data from the Alabama State Bar, there are almost 15,000 licensed attorneys residing in Alabama.
So how do you find the right attorney to handle your bankruptcy matter?
Let’s see if I can help.
Do I need a bankruptcy attorney?
Bankruptcy is probably a good option for you if you have far more debt than money to cover your debt, and you don’t see your financial situation changing anytime soon.
There are a number of factors that lead people to file for bankruptcy. Some of the most common factors include:
- Loss of employment
- Accidents that result in medical debt
There are 2 common types of bankruptcy for individuals:
- Chapter 7 bankruptcy (also called a “liquidation bankruptcy”) requires you to sell most of your assets to pay your creditors. This process is accomplished by a court-appointed trustee.
- Chapter 13 bankruptcy (sometimes called a “wage earner’s plan”) allows you to develop a plan to repay all or part of your debt over a 3-5 year period. Chapter 13 is often preferable to chapter 7 because it allows debtors to stop a foreclosure and keep their valuable property.
Unfortunately, not everyone qualifies for both types of bankruptcy. An experienced bankruptcy attorney can review your financial situation and explain your options.
Finding an Alabama bankruptcy attorney—where do I start?
The 1st step to finding the right attorney to handle your bankruptcy case is to find a handful of qualified attorneys capable of doing the job.
Although there are almost 5 million people in Alabama, the legal community is still small enough that news of a good (or bad) attorney travels fast. Consider checking with friends, family members and colleagues to see if anyone you trust can recommend a bankruptcy attorney.
If you don’t have any luck asking around, or you’re not comfortable letting people know you’re looking for a bankruptcy attorney, it’s time to turn to the Internet.
Using Google or another search engine to locate an attorney can be overwhelming. A better way to find a licensed bankruptcy attorney in Alabama is through a respected online directory—such as the free online directory right here on Enjuris.
The Enjuris Legal Directory allows you to search for licensed attorneys throughout the state of Alabama. Each attorney’s profile page includes useful information, such as contact information, main practice areas, attorney bios, and whether the attorney offers free initial consultations. If the lawyer has contributed articles to Enjuris, those articles will show up as well.
Another option is the Alabama State Bar Member Directory. Every attorney licensed to practice in Alabama is required to be listed in this directory.
The Alabama State Bar Member Directory allows you to search for an attorney by name and location. You can also find out whether the attorney has had any disciplinary action taken against them.
5 considerations for choosing the right Alabama bankruptcy attorney
Once you’ve located a handful of licensed bankruptcy attorneys in your area, you’ll want to whittle down the list.
Here are 5 factors you should consider when narrowing your search:
- Bankruptcy experience. The attorney you hire should have plenty of experience handling bankruptcy matters. There’s simply no way an attorney who primarily handles car accident cases will be up to speed with the latest legal developments in the area of bankruptcy.
If you’re unsure whether the attorney you’re considering primarily handles bankruptcy cases, ask them what percentage of their practice is devoted to bankruptcy. Membership in the bankruptcy section of a local bar association is also a good sign that the attorney is primarily a bankruptcy attorney.
- Local experience. Although federal law governs bankruptcy cases, state law does play a role in certain areas. It’s important to hire an attorney who regularly practices law in Alabama. According to the Alabama State Bar, there are roughly 3,924 lawyers who are licensed to practice law in Alabama but reside outside of the state.
- Cost. Attorney fees vary depending on each individual's situation, as well as the district in which the case is filed. Any attorney you meet with should be upfront about their costs. If the attorney doesn’t want to discuss their fees or is vague about how much your bankruptcy may cost, it’s probably wise to start looking for a different attorney.
- Compassion. Filing for bankruptcy requires you to discuss your financial situation in great detail with someone you hardly know. There’s also a good chance you just lost a job, are going through a divorce, or are facing some additional life challenge. It’s important that you hire an attorney who is compassionate and will treat you like a human being rather than just a stack of papers.
- Communication. A good attorney is a good communicator. When you meet with an attorney you’re considering hiring, ask yourself whether communication with them is easy or challenging. Did they promptly respond to your initial email or telephone call? Are they focused during your meeting, or are they distracted by something else? Are they willing to take the time to answer your questions and explain things in a way that you can understand?
You may be able to evaluate the attorneys you’re considering by reviewing their websites and talking to them over the telephone. However, there’s no substitute for meeting an attorney in person.