Why Do You Post Your Rates Upfront?
When I created Atlas Law Firm, I wanted to be completely transparent about our rates. I think there is a lot of skepticism on what lawyers charge. There is obviously an assumption that lawyers are expensive, and that you are going to be overcharged because your back is against the wall. You know you need their services, so they are going to take the opportunity to gouge you, and I did not want people to make that assumption about our services. Previous firms at which I have worked, would not disclose price until the potential client was sitting at the table. The training at those other firms was to pick a number that was reasonable as an example over the phone, but then to let the potential client know that the final price would not be disclosed until you they came into the office.
I want to be upfront as possible with my clients, and to disclose what our bankruptcy fees are and why. Many people will come into my office and say, “I met with so and so law firm, and they gave me a number and then I’ve found your number online and it was a much better price”.
Do People Who Look For High Priced Or Low Priced Attorneys Have Misconceptions That Need To Be Changed?
The primary misconception is that people tend to think that when you hire a lawyer, you are buying the case documents. For example, when you are hiring a bankruptcy lawyer, all they are doing is filling out the bankruptcy forms, and filing it with the court. Therefore, the bankruptcy lawyer is just doing paperwork, and filing it with the court. So why does it cost so much? The fact of the matter is the bankruptcy forms, petitions, the schedules, and the documents filed with the court, are just the end result of what you are really paying for, which is a legal analysis. Anytime you hire an attorney, regardless of what area of law, what you are really paying for is the attorney’s analysis of your circumstances and the application of those circumstances in that particular body of law.
Think of the law, any area of the law, as a filter. All laws are set up to filter people into different boxes, because the courts, and legislators, they want to treat people fairly, but they treat people differently based on their circumstances. For example, just to give you a very simple example of this, if you are trying to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and you are a multi-millionaire, and you own multiple pieces of real estate and luxury assets. Your case is going to look a lot different from somebody who has one job making $30,000 a year, and renting an apartment with a car. Those cases are going to be extraordinarily different. The laws are set up to filter people with different circumstances differently.
What you are really paying for is the attorney’s knowledge of the law, and his/ her ability to tell you. “Here is how the law is going to affect your particular situation and either; a) here are some issues that you might not want. So either we have to not pursue that option; or b) if the lawyer is good enough, to say. Here is how we can use these particular circumstances to your advantage or change things or wait in order to make the outcome more desirable to you.” That is primarily what you are paying for. Filling out the paperwork and filing it with the court is really the end result of that. Depending on your circumstances, it is going to take me more or less time to make sure that your case is successful through the bankruptcy court, to ensure we successfully discharge your debts, and minimize any kind of negative effects to make sure that the outcome is desirable for you.
It is going to be different if you have a relatively small amount of assets, than if you have a large amount and a higher income. Those cases are treated differently, because they take more time and effort.
What Is The Difference Between Hiring An Attorney That Is Focused On Bankruptcy As Opposed To Someone That Practices In Many Areas Of The Law?
The practice of law has definitely changed over the last several decades. You used to have more people who were what we call general practitioners; they dabbled in a bunch of different areas of law. That has really changed over the years, because the practice of law has become highly specialized. That is because the laws continually become more complex, not only the laws themselves, but also the interplay of the laws. Bankruptcy law is a federal law. It was created by Congress, and it applies across the country. However, there are eleven different federal judicial circuits in America, and each of those circuits interprets the law a little bit differently. There are federal circuit courts too, and they may interpret a particular law, and circumstance in one judicial circuit different from our own judicial circuit.
As an attorney practicing bankruptcy law, you definitely need to be on top of the laws in your jurisdiction. You need to know how the courts interpret them, but also for bankruptcy, even though it is a federal law, each state’s law supplements the bankruptcy laws. States cannot make laws that change the federal bankruptcy laws. This is always something I caution people about, when they go online and read a blog post from a lawyer in Florida, which has very little relevance to how the bankruptcy laws are interpreted in Minnesota. You need somebody who has the expertise in the bankruptcy area to know his or her jurisdiction, and bankruptcy laws in general, because it definitely varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
Another reason to be weary of somebody who is of more of a jack-of-all-trades attorney is that when the big economic recession hit in 2008, many lawyers lost their business or a big part of their business. If they were handling real estate transactions, or business transactions, many businesses would have dropped down and decided to rush into the bankruptcy arena – projecting that bankruptcy filing increase after economic downturns. These new attorneys practicing bankruptcy law, really did not know the ins and outs, and the specifics of how the laws applied in different circumstances.
They thought they could take a quick course and figure out the broad strokes of bankruptcy law and handle bankruptcy cases. Unfortunately while that might work for a certain percentage of your bankruptcy cases, eventually a case is going to come in that requires some specified knowledge, and it is not going to work for you. You are definitely well served by meeting with somebody who practices primarily in bankruptcy, and that is what they focus their time and energy on. Another reason that the bankruptcy laws can be complicated is because so much comes in when you file for bankruptcy. So not only do you need to know the bankruptcy laws, but you need to know issues on real estate laws, you need to know things about UCC article 9, which governs secured transactions. All of these different issues affects our lives, may come under the microscope once you file bankruptcy.
You need somebody who not only has experience with all these various areas of law, including states, trusts, wills, and real estate and Article 9, you need to know how the courts through the bankruptcy laws interpret those laws. They can twist and turn within the bankruptcy courts and cause potential other issues too. If you are meeting with an attorney who does not focus primarily on bankruptcy practice, his/ her knowledge may be only broad-based, and lacking an expertise of the bankruptcy laws. Therefore, it is definitely important to meet with somebody who specializes in this area or at least focuses their practice in this area.
For more information on Posting Rates Upfront, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (763) 568-7343 today.
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