When you are looking for a Bankruptcy attorney you typically go to your web-based search engine and type in “Bankruptcy attorney near me”. The irony of this search term is that, more often than not, it will send you to the web site of a Bankruptcy attorney who is NOT near you.
Bankruptcy is a very strange area of the law from a business perspective. Unlike other areas of the law, Bankruptcy attorneys don't make very much money and their practice area his highly competitive. So how they rank in your search terms is very very important.
But there is a way to get rich doing Bankruptcy law, and that is by doing LOTs and LOTs of cases. The only way to generate that kind of volume is to pay big money to the search engines in advertising dollars.
And the only way to make that work is to advertise across many states. This has led to the advent of “nationwide” bankruptcy firms. The firm is usually based in a big city, like Chicago, Los Angeles, or New York, and they rank very high in your web search, but their web site won't give away the fact that they are not local. They have operators standing by 24 hours a day to get you signed up. But here is the problem…they are really not very accountable to you. There have been many iterations of this type of practice in the past and in every case, they eventually go out of business, leaving clients, who paid for a Bankruptcy case, high and dry.
This was the sad case of the Jacoby & Myers Bankruptcy Law firm, based out of Chicago. Here in Washington, they took the money of thousands of clients, and then disappeared with millions of dollars in client retainer money, leaving those people with no options, no Bankruptcy case, and no money to hire somebody else.
Sadly, you would think that after several of these firms try and fail, this would stop, but it hasn't. That is not to say that some State attorney generals and bar associations haven't tried to crack down on this practice. So, the new method is for the national firm to partner with a local firm in order to bypass any potential ethical violations.
When you are searching for a Bankruptcy attorney, local is always best. Most reputable bankruptcy attorneys are small family-owned law practices, and that is what you need to look for. Search for “local” or “family owned” bankruptcy attorney or law firm. You need real people who care about you, your problems, and will not disappear with your money. Reputable Bankruptcy attorneys have usually been in practice doing the same thing for over ten years. Be careful about “new firms” because they are usually attorneys who have failed at some other area of the law and are dabbling in Bankruptcy to pay their bills.
This week I had two calls from people who had contracted with out of state attorneys. One told me that her attorney takes more than a month to respond to her. The other said that her attorney flat out told her that he is just a “bad attorney”. Remember, family owned and local bankruptcy attorneys are what you want. They know the trustees by name. They have practiced in front of all the local judges. They have a local reputation in the community that they want to protect.
After you search for a local family-owned Bankruptcy attorney, make sure that you ask them how long they have been practicing Bankruptcy. How many cases have they filed? Are they sharing their fees with another entity? Don't be afraid to look them up on the Bar Association web site for any ethical violations that they may have had in the past. Always read client reviews. Do your homework and you will have a much better outcome for your case. Bankruptcy is stressful enough without having to worry about your attorney being incompetent.