Okay, I apologize for the bad lawyer joke but it plays to my self-deprecating humor. It also plays to the negative stereotype that surrounds us attorneys.
At worst, attorneys are described as sleazy and greedy. At best, people see us as a necessary evil.
In my practice, I try to buck this stereotype and be courteous and fair. I also try to be as open as possible with everyone that walks in my door about the potential success of their case.
Often, my honesty about potential case difficulties dissuades people from filing bankruptcy. This is as it should be. People should make the decision to file bankruptcy with all the information in front of them.
Last week, I found out that some attorneys are quite stingy with information.
A Story of Stinginess
I recently consulted with a client who admittedly had met with two other bankruptcy lawyers. I commended her for this and I actually recommend doing this.
This woman had $10,000 in non-exempt cash and approximately $6,000 in non-exempt vehicle equity.
Now, the $10,000 could be dealt with through some pre-filing planning. The vehicle equity, not so much.
I informed her that if she filed chapter 7 bankruptcy, she would need to be prepared to either turn over the vehicle to the trustee or purchase the vehicle back from the bankruptcy estate.
She was quite surprised to hear this and I was quite surprised to find out that the other attorneys she met with did not mention this glaring issue. They had both told her that she could file bankruptcy and there should be no problems.
They mentioned nothing about the equity in her vehicle.
I cannot speak for those other attorneys, but I see this as a big problem that needed to be addressed before moving forward with the case.
There is always the possibility that the attorneys discussed above had little experience with consumer bankruptcy cases. This would make their actions understandable, but not excusable.
Alternatively, it is possible that these attorneys did not want to disclose this potential pitfall for fear of losing the client.
Sugarcoat the bankruptcy and make it sound like a sweet deal. Unfortunately, this type of case and attorney/client relationship can sour quickly.
If this information was purposely withheld, it is dishonest at best.
I am an advocate for my clients and always look out for their best interests. This relationship starts from the time they walk in the door and continues on through (and after) the completion of the case.
Image courtesy of Paul Kline (Flickr).