Meet the Team
Michael is the founding member of our firm and has been an attorney for nearly 30 years.
Sara is has been an attorney for more than 10 years and works primarily with our Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 clients.
As with any area of the law, it is important to carefully select an attorney who will respond to your personal situation. The attorney should not be too busy to meet you individually and to answer questions as necessary.
In bankruptcy, as in all areas of life, remember that the person advertising the cheapest rate is not necessarily the best. You should be especially cautious about non-lawyers that offer to help you file your case on your own.
Document preparation services also known as “typing services” or “paralegal services” involve non-lawyers who offer to prepare bankruptcy forms for a fee. Problems with these services often arise because non-lawyers cannot offer advice on even simple, not to mention, difficult bankruptcy cases. Furthermore, they offer no services once a bankruptcy case has begun. There are also many shady operators in this field, who give bad advice and defraud consumers. An improperly done bankruptcy case can result in an outcome worse than when you started.
If you would like to discuss your particular case with an attorney, you should be prepared to answer the following questions:
• What types of debt are causing you the most trouble?
• What are your significant assets?
• Has anyone filed suit against you, and if so, what is the current status of the case?
• How did your debts arise and are they secured?
• Is any action about to occur to foreclose or repossess property, to attach your wages or bank account, or to shut off utility service?
• What are your goals in filing the case?
Here’s where we will shoot straight with you, whereas lots of others will not.
To file a bankruptcy case requires some hard costs that cannot be avoided without a fee waiver for REALLY low income (around $1000 a month). Those costs involve filing fees for the court, credit counseling, credit reports, and printing/mailing expenses. The credit report is a special report that we obtain specifically for bankruptcy cases; a Credit Karma credit report will not help us much. Further, sometimes there are required expenses for things like real estate appraisals or automobile valuations. We refer to all of these types of expenses as “costs”.
In addition to the costs of the case, there is a need to pay the professional fees for a law firm to handle the case. This includes preparing the petition itself, going to the creditor meeting, conferring with creditors, and other things that are specific to your case and its needs. The lawyers have to be paid for their work, and that’s what the professional fees cover.
In a typical Chapter 7 case where there are no assets being used to pay creditors and there are no “bumps or hiccups”, the total expense for a case including both the costs and the professional fees is around $1,800 – $2,000. That is an HONEST, real price. Not a lowball number designed to get you in the door and then we ping you to death with “extra” expenses that you should have been told about upfront.
In a typical Chapter 13 case, the costs and professional fees to launch the case are usually right around $3,000. Thereafter, you will make monthly payments to “fund” your Chapter 13 plan and the expenses of your case are paid from these payments.
A somewhat basic Chapter 12 case takes around $5,000 to get started, and then the remaining costs are also paid as part of your Chapter 12 plan.
It’s really hard to estimate the costs of a Chapter 11 case because there are so many variables involved in them. Sometimes we have to do a whole lot of work on these cases (usually business reorganizations) and sometimes we have to comparatively little (often those cases that could have been a Chapter 13, but we can get a better outcome in a Chapter 11). This is really broad bush and huge generalization, but to give you some idea—an individual Chapter 11 case usually needs about $10,000 to start the case and a business reorganization usually needs about $20,000. The total expense of the case will vary wildly based on the complexity, but a simple individual case could be around $10,000 total, and a complex business reorganization can be more than $100,000.
Like I said—we’re honest about what to expect. No surprises.
It is usually a good idea for you to meet with an attorney before you receive the required credit counseling. Unlike a credit counselor, who cannot give legal advice, an attorney can provide counseling on whether bankruptcy is the best option. If bankruptcy is not the right answer for you, I will offer a range of other suggestions that might work in your case. I can also provide you with a list of approved credit counseling agencies, or you can check the website for the United States Trustee Program office at www.usdoj.gov/ust.
Although it may be possible for some people to file a bankruptcy case without an attorney, it is not recommended. The process is difficult and you may lose property or other rights if you do not know the law. It takes patience and careful preparation. Chapter 7 (straight bankruptcy) cases are somewhat easier. Very few people have been able to successfully file chapter 13 (reorganization) cases on their own. We have never seen a Chapter 11 case succeed without a very capable Chapter 11 Attorney.