Caution and your best instincts go a long way, but the number one factor in choosing a bankruptcy lawyer is experience.
During the great recession of recent years, bankruptcies have been occurring with frightening regularity. Rates are approaching those of the 1930s, when another prominent economic downturn occurred. If you are facing such an eventuality, you will need to choose an attorney.
But this can be problematic. The downturn in the economy has affected lawyers, too. As lawyers discover that fewer potential clients are knocking on their doors, some have been forced to “downsize” in a declining practice. In Florida alone, such “downsizing” has occurred at thousands of practices across the state. Desperate, and yet resourceful by nature, many lawyers have been seeking out new practice areas with which they were previously unfamiliar. To these inexperienced lawyers, representing a debtor in a bankruptcy case seems like a no-brainer. The operative word is “seems.”
Bankruptcy law is a specialty practice that calls for meticulous attention to detail and knowledge of many nuances of bankruptcy law. The stakes are high. The smallest error in a filing can cost the debtor, already likely to be in precarious financial health, a great deal of money. A lawyer new to bankruptcy, even if well-intentioned, is more likely to mishandle a case than would be a lawyer experienced in bankruptcy law. In such cases of mishandling, rancor can easily develop between an anxious debtor and his incompetent lawyer.
If a lawyer wanting to handle your bankruptcy case approaches you, or if you seek one out, you have to ask several questions. Ask the lawyer how many cases that he or she has handled, specifically in the practice area of bankruptcy. How many years has this lawyer practiced in bankruptcy? A red flag would be answers like “I’m new to bankruptcy,” or “You’re my first case but…” even if the candor appears to be refreshing. Trust your instincts. Realize that experience in handling bankruptcy cases, a willingness to review such cases, and the ability to discuss nuances of bankruptcy law is likely to be more refreshing in the long run. Another red flag is when you’re shuffled off to a paralegal or other staffers, and don’t get to spend adequate time with the lawyer. If you find yourself in a situation where your instincts make you leery, it’s time to find another lawyer – a genuine bankruptcy lawyer – fast.
O. Reginald (“Reggie”) Osenton is the Owner and President of Osenton Law Offices, P.A. If you need a Brandon bankruptcy lawyer, Tampa bankruptcy lawyer, or Tampa bankruptcy attorney, call 813.654.5777 or visit Brandonlawoffice.com.