Freedom is at the Beginning:
Thank you for visiting my website and welcome to “Debt Men Tell No Tales: Bankruptcy, Black coffee & Beards in Downtown Valdosta.” For the record, I am a bankruptcy attorney. I began my career back in 1998, and bankruptcy law has been my focus since I started the practice. Over the years, I have met with more than a thousand people to discuss their debt issues and to listen to the problems they experience. After all that time, I feel like I have something to say and an obligation to share my perspective on bankruptcy and debt relief as it exists today. These are just my opinions based on my experience over the years, you don’t have to listen or agree, but I do hope you stick around. The title is a bit tongue-in-cheek because I hope we can have some fun with these topics of bankruptcy, what’s going on in Valdosta, and well, yes, beards. Side note, these blogs are caffeine driven, and you have Grassroots Coffee Company here in Valdosta and their café mocha to thank for today’s blog.
Let’s begin by realizing that a bankruptcy is a machine with a lot of moving parts. It’s more than all those forms you see, and you can get lost quickly if you think of it as just a ton of paperwork. A bankruptcy attorney is like a mechanic. Kind of like Marisa Tomei’s character in My Cousin Vinny, you learn a lot by working day after day surrounded by other people who do the same. When you visit with a bankruptcy attorney, it’s because you are experiencing a problem. Maybe you hit one of Life’s many potholes, like losing a job or getting sick and collecting medical bills. Maybe you got rear ended by a credit card company and the interest they charge. Whatever the reason, you need immediate relief and professional help getting back on the road towards your financial future.
Getting back on the road isn’t always easy. It’s like learning to drive all over again. If you are like most people, a parent/relative/friend taught you to drive. You probably picked the one least likely to yell at you and who wouldn’t make you even more nervous by constantly stomping the imaginary breaks on their side of the car. If you were really lucky, maybe they also taught you some basic automotive repair in case something went wrong out there on the highway. But how many of us were lucky enough to have them teach us to budget our finances? It’s the same rite of passage but it often gets overlooked. And even then, who taught you what to do when you lose your job or when you get sick and are out of work for an extended time? Who taught you what to say when that first creditor calls?
Okay, so you have troubles and you need an attorney. How do you find one? It’s just like buying a car or finding a good mechanic: you shop around! And since you are already thinking it, yes, most people hate car shopping. Not because of the car itself (they know they need one) but because of the sales people. Before they even meet a salesperson they are afraid they’re going to be pressured or maybe tricked into paying too much.
So how do you find a bankruptcy attorney? My advice is first to ask yourself, whether you want an experienced mechanic or a used car dealer. Do you want good customer service? Do want the personal attention of the professional you hire? Do you want someone with experience who is going to help you with all the paperwork and who will personally be with you at your court hearing? Answer those questions for yourself and then shop around. Most bankruptcy attorneys will do free consultations so, other than the time investment, it doesn’t hurt you to see more than one. Make some calls and you will learn a lot very fast. Ask questions! For example, ask if the attorney will meet with you or are you going to be passed off to a staff member? Find out if they are there to listen or do they want you to fill out a questionnaire? Are they friendly as well as professional?
So pick the attorney you like because you may be working with them for up to five years. Relax a bit on the pricing because the cost is usually the same or pretty close to the same. The Court limits what an attorney can charge in Chapter 13, which is the most common kind of bankruptcy. And the costs of Chapter 7 are usually pretty similar because it’s a competitive business. Sure in Chapter 7 there are always advertisements claiming that someone can do everything for little or nothing, but you get what you pay for. A smart customer knows a buy-here-pay-here used car lot when they see one. And they know that if they get a car there, not only are they not getting what they really wanted but all the parts might not work. Usually they drive off in a clunker and the salesperson walks off with more than the original advert promised. Let the buyer beware!
From the start of your bankruptcy, please understand that, it’s your bankruptcy and your responsibility. Your attorney is getting you started again but you have to keep it between the lanes as you move forward. Just remember that you are protected by the court as soon as you file, so freedom is at the beginning.