Price shopping for legal fees

If you are price shopping for a bankruptcy , you need to be aware that it’s difficult to compare apples to apples. Many low advertised legal fees have problems.

Some are not even lawyers. They are people familiar with bankruptcy and just assist with filling out the bankruptcy forms. Not only is it illegal for them to provide legal advice, they don’t have the education or training to provide competent legal advice. I have seen firsthand some of the damage that can happen when people file a bankruptcy without competent advice. I had one client come to me after her bankruptcy was dismissed. It turned out that her income had increased to where she was no longer qualified to file. If she had filed when she started the case, she would have been qualified to file but the other firm did not see the approaching disqualification. Her case was dismissed and she never got her debts discharged.  By the time she came to see me, there was nothing I could do.

And even if the firm has a lawyer, there is no guaranty that you will work with the lawyer after you sign the fee agreement.  For many bankruptcy mills a secretary or paralegal is your sole contact person and, in fact, is the person who works your file. That is not how things work here. I, John Hoffer, personally work your file.

Another major problem is what is called the up-sale. That’s where there are additional costs that are not included in the initial fee quote. These vary from firm to firm. Be sure to understand exactly what the quoted fee covers. Does it include the 341 hearing? What about amendments to the schedules if you forget a creditor? Are reaffirmations for secured debt included? Is there an extra charge for filing married? And so on.

And finally, sometimes there are so many restrictions to qualify for the super low advertised fee that few if any actually qualify for it. It’s kind of an illusion to get you into the door.

But mainly, you need to figure out if you are hiring a firm to provide legal guidance and document preparation, or are you just getting document preparation? Legal guidance has real value. Don’t file bankruptcy without it.