Bankruptcy laws focus on helping individuals solve and repay their debts after they have suffered heavy losses. It is common to hear that a person in a bad financial situation may declare bankruptcy. Bankruptcy law is not always the first career path that law students think of, but it can be quite exciting and fulfilling. Federal bankruptcy laws, which govern nearly all bankruptcy proceedings, are statutory laws outlined in Title 11 of the United States Code. Because one code governs all bankruptcy proceedings in the country, this area of law tends to be very uniform and precise. In fact, many bankruptcy attorneys find this area of practice enjoyable for that very reason often the answer they are searching for is outlined directly in the code itself.
In particular, there are three common types of bankruptcy proceedings. Chapter 7 of the Code applies to individual petitions, while Chapter 11 proceedings are filed by businesses. Finally, Chapter 13 proceedings govern wage earners; petitions under this chapter ask the court for more time to allow a debtor to pay off his or her debts while earning a steady income.
What Do Bankruptcy Lawyers Do?
Bankruptcy lawyers may work on behalf of debtors (the individuals or businesses who owe the debt) or creditors (the individuals or entities to whom a debt is owed). In a bankruptcy proceeding, the ultimate goal is to benefit both the debtor and the creditors, by allowing creditors to become satisfied while still allowing debtors a fresh start financially. Bankruptcy lawyers on both sides of the equation work to facilitate this goal. On a typical day, a lawyer working on a bankruptcy case may draft motions and proceedings to be filed in court, as well as draft responses to motions and other filings. Bankruptcy lawyers engage in and review discovery documents, and hold meetings with clients and adversaries to discuss how best to move forward.
Motions filed in bankruptcy cases will be set to be heard by the court, and lawyers will have to be prepared to argue them. However, junior attorneys in bankruptcy firms may not always get to court to argue these motions which practice is often left up to the more experienced attorneys.
Because of the variety of tasks performed by a bankruptcy lawyer, a variety of skills are needed as well.
Bankruptcy lawyers must have a strong understanding of the Bankruptcy Code, as well as excellent legal research and writing skills. Lawyers in this field must be prepared to communicate with clients, as well as negotiate with adversaries in pending proceedings, so strong “people skills” are a must. Finally, litigation skills are a necessity, even though newer attorneys may not argue in court right off the bat. Bankruptcy lawyers should be ready to argue motions filed in court at any time; a full understanding of the filings involved, as well as well-practiced speaking skills, are a must in this field.
Bankruptcy law is a growing field right now, so this is a good time for law students to look for careers in this area of law. Many firms offer a bankruptcy practice, which typically involve a heavy workload. Students interested in working in this field should look to apply to both small and large firms with an active bankruptcy practice. While in law school, most students will have the opportunity to take a course in bankruptcy law. This is, of course, the best way to learn more about the field and the laws involved in bankruptcy proceedings. Students interested in this area of practice should look out for a bankruptcy or similar course being offered by their school. However, bankruptcy itself is not the only useful class for future bankruptcy lawyers. The following classes will all help to hone the skills and knowledge necessary for those who wish to work in the bankruptcy field:
• Bankruptcy Law
• Consumer Finance
• Tax Law
Bankruptcy is a growing area of the law offering more and more career opportunities for new lawyers. While attorneys in this field must utilize a variety of different skills each day, law students can start preparing early for a career in this fast-paced environment. Attorneys in bankruptcy enjoy the field because the laws are straightforward and the objective is to satisfy everyone involved in the proceedings.
What Are The Downsides Of Declaring Personal Bankruptcy?
1. Not all debts will disappear. Some debts, like child support payments or money owed to a victim in a criminal case, will still be your responsibility even if you declare bankruptcy.
2. Your credit score will be affected. Seeing a declaration of bankruptcy on your credit score will affect your ability to secure loans. While some lenders will still work with you, many will deny you or create more aggressive terms.
3. Your filings will be public: Anyone, including media or potential employers, would have the ability to look up your financial filings. They would then see that you had filed for bankruptcy.
4. You can’t be a director of a corporation until you are discharged: This may take years. If you’re at director level in your career, this may be a blow that is difficult to come back from.
Corporations that file for bankruptcy cannot continue to operate. Essentially, bankruptcy serves as an end to the life of a company. There are a variety of reasons for why a company might need to file for bankruptcy.
Often, economic factors have a sudden and dramatic effect on receivables. If a corporation doesn’t have a sufficient buffer for operating costs, even reducing staff and other expenses can’t be done in time.
Corporate bankruptcy involves more players than an individual filing. Often shareholders, employees, investors and lenders are all affected. For example, employees may wonder if they need to come into work while bankruptcy proceedings are in progress or how they will be paid. Working with a comprehensive legal team that specializes in business bankruptcy ensures that the rights of all affected parties are considered.
An attorney represents creditors seeking repayment on loans from an insolvent or bankrupt individual or corporation. Even before bankruptcy occurs, creditors have legal recourse to collect on unpaid debts. Our lawyers can help with the following collections processes:
• Garnishing a debtor’s bank account
• Realizing on a debtor’s account
• Taking possession of a debtor’s home
• Discovering and accessing hidden assets
Whether you are a secured or unsecured creditor, our experienced team provides timely legal advice to ensure loans are repaid. Get in touch with us today to speak with a qualified creditor’s rights lawyer.
Licensed Insolvency Trustees
Many corporations and individuals facing bankruptcy will work with insolvency trustees to help them navigate the legal proceedings. While an individual or corporation can file for bankruptcy without consulting a lawyer, in order to file for bankruptcy you need to consult a licensed insolvency trustee. If you’re thinking about hiring a lawyer to file a bankruptcy petition and represent you, you’ll have to pay attorneys’ fees. Most bankruptcy lawyers charge a flat fee for a simple bankruptcy; others charge an hourly fee. When you pay attorneys’ fees will depend, in large part, on whether you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Flat Fees Versus Hourly Fees
Many attorneys, especially bankruptcy attorneys, will charge a “flat rate” to represent you in a bankruptcy case. You’ll pay a fixed amount for the attorney to represent you, regardless of the amount of time the attorney spends on your case. Other attorneys will charge you an hourly rate, although it’s uncommon in consumer bankruptcy cases. The more likely scenario is for the attorney to charge a flat fee for the bulk of the matter. The lawyer will charge an hourly fee for any extra work required for services like defending against an objection to discharge. Your contract should spell out what the flat fee covers.
Average Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Attorney Fees
Most Chapter 7 bankruptcy attorneys will base their fees on how complicated your case is and what other attorneys in the area would charge for a similar bankruptcy. If you have a lot of assets or debt, you might pay more than an unemployed person with no assets. In general, attorney fees for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy range from $1,000 to $3,500 depending on the complexity of the case. Larger firms with more advertising and overhead costs sometimes charge more than a solo practitioner, but not always. Some larger operations offer low fees and count on a higher volume of cases. Also, you might find a solo practitioner will cost more but offer more personalized service. It will depend on the office. You can expect a newer attorney to charge less than a more experienced lawyer, and if your case is a simple Chapter 7, you might not need an attorney with years of experience. Keep in mind, however, that bankruptcy is a specialized area of law and that most attorneys who don’t regularly practice bankruptcy won’t accept a bankruptcy case.
When shopping around for a bankruptcy lawyer, call at least a few attorneys in your area. Compare their fees and ask if bankruptcy is an area they specialize in, as well as the number of cases they file each month.
Paying a Chapter 7 Attorney
You’ll pay your Chapter 7 attorneys’ fees in full before the attorney files the case and with good reason. Chapter 7 wipes out most unsecured debt in a Chapter 7 case, including attorneys’ fees. So if you had a balance due when filing the matter, it would get discharged. Chapter 7 attorneys know this, of course, and require full payment.
Average Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Attorney Fees
Most courts have guideline “acceptable” fees for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Unless exceptional circumstances justify it, an attorney won’t be allowed to charge more than the court’s guideline fee. Chapter 13 guideline fees are different for each judicial district. However, they are typically between $2,500 and $6,000 depending on the complexity of the case. For instance, if you own a business, the case will likely require more work and justify a higher fee.
Paying a Chapter 13 Attorney
Fortunately, most attorneys don’t require you to pay the entire Chapter 13 bankruptcy fee upfront. In most cases, attorneys will ask for a portion of their fees before filing your matter, and the remainder will get paid through your Chapter 13 repayment plan. How much a bankruptcy lawyer will require before filing will depend on each attorney or firm. But on average, you can expect to pay about half of the total fee before the attorney files your case.
Lawyers Must Disclose Attorneys’ Fees to the Court
Attorneys’ fees in bankruptcy cases are somewhat unusual in that they must be disclosed to and approved by the court. However, this doesn’t mean that the bankruptcy court fixes the amount that attorneys can charge in bankruptcy cases. Attorneys are free to charge what is reasonable given their experience and the complexity of your case subject to review by the court. Some courts have a “presumptive” maximum fee for certain types of bankruptcy cases, but the attorney can overcome the ceiling by demonstrating a good reason for charging more.
Factors that can add to fees include:
• Filing for a business bankruptcy as well as a personal one
• Whether you are filing jointly with your spouse or filing bankruptcy without your spouse
• You have multiple sources of income
• You have non-exempt assets
• You have numerous assets or unusual assets
• You earn more than your state’s median income for the size of your household
• Having an extensive number of creditors
• Having filed for bankruptcy before in the past eight years
• Trying to stop another legal action such as a foreclosure filing against your property, an eviction, a bank levy or a repossession of property that served as loan collateral
• Accusations that you committed fraud, or the likelihood that such accusations might be made
• You have non-dischargeable debts such as student loans, child support, alimony or past-due taxes
Attorneys almost always demand payment before service in Chapter 7 cases. They will often offer payment plans, but they won’t proceed with your case until your fees are paid. That leaves you vulnerable to creditors trying to collect your debts while you try to raise money for the lawyer. The fees above are just averages, and fees have likely increased since the survey was conducted. In Chapter 13 cases, judges will review attorneys’ fees unless they fall below a so-called “no-look” amount, which is a baseline considered reasonable in the jurisdiction where the case is filed. But in general, it’s a good idea to call or meet with several attorneys before choosing one to represent you. The cost of living where you file will also impact what you pay. Lawyers in large metropolitan areas, like everyone else, have bigger expenses than those in more rural settings. The higher cost tends to raise all professional costs, and bankruptcy representation is no exception. Also, not all lawyers were created equal. Those with many successful years in the bankruptcy field will almost certainly demand larger fees than those with little experience. It is a good idea to consider the complexity of your case when picking a lawyer. If you have few assets and not many debts, your simple case might not demand the sort of representation that someone with a diverse source of income, a fat folder of creditors and perhaps a suspicion of fraud, might need. In other words, not all bankruptcies are the same. Remember that mulling the sort of lawyer you might need. Those with complicated cases might benefit from an experienced bankruptcy lawyer. If creditors challenge your financial statements and allege fraud, having an attorney able to navigate a complex case would benefit you. The same would be true for cases springing from medical debt, a fairly common culprit in bankruptcy filings.
Free Initial Consultation with Lawyer
It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Legal problems come to everyone. Whether it’s your son who gets in a car wreck, your uncle who loses his job and needs to file for bankruptcy, your sister’s brother who’s getting divorced, or a grandparent that passes away without a will -all of us have legal issues and questions that arise. So when you have a law question, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you!
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506