Shopping for the lowest price bankruptcy attorney may not be the best move
I am a bankruptcy attorney in San Diego, CA and have been for a number of years. Almost weekly my office is ‘shopped’ for the price of our services to compare against other practitioners. The inquiry often times goes something like this:
“Hi. I am trying to find a low cost bankruptcy lawyer for my sister. She has a simple Chapter 7, with needing the reaffirmation agreement to keep her little Chevy Aveo car. I am trying to get quotes from various firms to see which one would be best for her to go to.”
This is an all too common inquiry that incorrectly focuses on getting the best ‘deal’, rather than the best representation one can afford. Attorney Lori Patton and I have blogged on this issue before, on this site, but today’s inquiry has caused me to discuss the issue once again. Here is my reply to this most recent inquiry:
“Thank you for your inquiry. Shopping for a bankruptcy attorney by price is a ‘loss leader’ in our view.Sure, you may ‘save’ a few hundred here or there, but at what actual cost? What if you employ an inexperienced attorney that is not familiar with the local legal culture, and who presents the forms improperly? What if you hire an attorney that doesn’t represent you at all but rather farms out the work to another attorney or worse yet, a ‘supervised’ paralegal? What if the complexity of the new bankruptcy laws make your otherwise ‘simple’ case, much more difficult due to some nuanced change in the law that an inexperienced attorney doesn’t spot as an issue? Or maybe it’s a risk worth taking for the lowest common dollar. Not in our view. Having prefaced with all this, we will say we are NOT the cheapest, nor are with he MOST expensive. Our consultations are free and with no obligation. Please have your family member come into the office so that we may consult in person and determine the apparent benefits, risks and costs.”
A “good deal” in the legal marketplace is a function of value
I recognize that this is America, and getting a good ‘deal’ is one measure of success. I suggest, however, that the good deal in hiring a bankruptcy attorney is obtaining the best representation that you can afford. Note, this concept is completely different that finding the cheapest attorney to represent you in bankruptcy court. Even before the laws were changed in 2005, the concept of hiring cheap counsel to just fill out a bunch of forms was a risky proposition. Could a successful case be prepared and filed for the lowest common dollar? Sure, and that can be achieved under the excessive burdens of the ‘new’ bankruptcy laws, as well. The point is that it’s too much of a risk. Bankruptcy law has always been much more than the simple drafting and filling out of forms. Many well meaning debtors, looking for the best deal, have been harmed by this simplistic view.