Shopping For The Lowest California Bankruptcy Attorney Fees – You Get What You Pay For

Posted by on Feb 3, 2012 in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Issues | 0 comments

Oftentimes, prosepctive bankruptcy filers are shopping for the lowest bankruptcy attorney fees.   A good attorney should tell you that their fees depend on the complexity of the case.   Sure, there are attorneys out there who will take your case for a bargain price but are you sure they know what they are doing?

For those clients who are price shopping for an attorney, remember you get what you pay for.    When you pay less, you will be sacrificing something whether you know it or not.  It might be the attorney’s competence, the level of personal attention, or the appeal of the attorney’s law office.  But something is going to give.

Beware of Hidden Costs!  Some attorneys will tell you it costs $300.00-500.00 to file the bankruptcy plus the court filing fee (which is $306 for ch7 and $281 for ch13).   But what they don’t tell you is that there are hidden fees they will charge you after your case is filed.   I am shocked how often I talk to people who have been charged for various post-petition work after thinking the fees they paid up front represented 100% of the attorney’s fees.   Be careful that the attorney doesn’t charge you extra to complete reaffirmation agreements or to file your Post Petition Bankruptcy Financial Management Certificate (Form B23).  Make your attorney show you in the fee agreement that what you are paying is 100% of the fees.  Any work that is not covered should be spelled out in the contract and explained so there are no surprises.   Make sure the attorney will still be available to talk to you after the case is filed ( I have heard of attorneys who will bill clients in flat fee chapter 7 cases to talk to the attorney post petition!).  In one case, I even know of a bankruptcy attorney who double billed his chapter 13 client!   The attorney was set to receive the balance of his attorney’s fees via the chapter 13 plan payments, but the attorney also also billed the client directly.

Clients should also be meeting with attorneys, at least intially.  If your intial consult is with a paralegal, be very skeptical of the office procedures within that law firm, even if it comes highly recommened.  You should be advised by a bankruptcy attorney regardless of how competent the paralegal may be.  However, all this goes back to the issue of attorney’s fees in bankruptcy cases.   Unfortunately, good represenation does cost the client some money.   However, just make sure the “lowest guy you find” is really the lowest and that the attorney is competent and will not charge you with hidden fees, maintenance costs, or office expenses later on during the scope of represenation.

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