Why do I need an attorney?
Many people file a bankruptcy pro se, or self-represented, with the assumption that they cannot afford to use an attorney. Some of those cases go by without a hitch. Other cases can become a nightmare for the pro se filer that even an attorney may not be able to remedy. Many people go to document preparers to help them with a bankruptcy. While it is possible that a document preparer can prepare a case for you, all that they can legally do is simply fill out forms; anything more and they are practicing law without a license. While a document preparer’s fees cannot exceed $200, the question you have to ask yourself is whether your case is simple enough (and you have little or no assets to lose) to be prepared without proper legal advice. Better yet, ask yourself the following: Would you rather see the dentist when your tooth aches or see his receptionist and hope she/he can help? Simply stated, sometimes you need to pay for a job well done by someone who will back his/her work. If a document preparer makes a mistake and you lose your car, you have lost your car. While you may have recourse by suing the document preparer his/her defense is simple: no legal advice was provided. All that was done was filling out forms to be filed. If a bankruptcy attorney makes a mistake, the attorney has a professional responsibility to correct the mistake or make sure you are given every benefit available to you by the bankruptcy code.
When most lawyers offer free initial consultations, there simply is no excuse not to obtain the opinion of a professional before you file a bankruptcy case under penalty of perjury that all documents filed are true and accurate. As there are so many good lawyers out there practicing law, and legal rates are so competitive, the real question you should be asking yourself is not whether you can afford a bankruptcy lawyer, but rather can you afford not to hire a lawyer?
How do you know you have found the right attorney?
As with everything in life, your choices come with some risk. While you will not be able to find a good attorney that will guarantee you success, there are ways to reduce the risks associated with filing a bankruptcy. Before you contact an attorney, contact the local bar association. In Phoenix, Arizona, the State Bar of Arizona is a great starting point. There you can find out if there are any complaints against an attorney, if the attorney has insurance, and how long that attorney has been in practice. You can find the Arizona State Bar Association online at www.azbar.org. For contact information, please visit the website or call (602) 252-4804. If outside of greater Phoenix and the Maricopa County call toll free at (866) 482-9227.
If you are satisfied with the particular attorney you have investigated, the next step would be to meet/speak with the attorney. Although some attorneys will require payment for their time, or limit the amount of time that they spend with you, I offer a free initial telephonic consultation to anyone interested in filing a bankruptcy or to discuss debt relief options. In speaking with an attorney ask about his/her experience, work ethic and how he/she handles clients’ cases. Many times you will not meet or speak with an attorney. The biggest complaint most clients have about their attorney is lack of communication. An attorney should clearly explain what he/she can and cannot do for you and you are entitled to be treated with respect and professionalism. In my Phoenix based office, unless you are dealing with a data entry issue, or secretarial issue, all communications, be it by phone, mail or email, will be with me, Larry Karandreas.
If you are not sure about the attorney you have met, or if the attorney has not bothered to meet with you, walk away. If the attorney or an assistant to the attorney pressure you to pay a retainer, do not pay one unless you are sure that this person, this firm, is right for you. Do not feel obligated to pay a retainer because the attorney or someone in his/her firm has spent some time with you. Many people feel remorse, as if they have been trapped into keeping an attorney once they pay a retainer. You should never feel trapped or stuck with your attorney because you paid a retainer. Even if the bankruptcy attorney states that a retainer is non-refundable, you may still be entitled to a refund under the Arizona Rules of Professional Conduct. The Rules of Professional Conduct, E.R.1.5(d)(3) state that a “…client may nevertheless discharge the lawyer at any time and in that event may be entitled to a refund of all or part of the fee based upon the value of the representation pursuant to paragraph…” E.R.1.5(d)(3). You can find the Arizona Professional Rules of Ethics on-line at www.azbar.org/ethics/rulesofprofessionalconduct.
My policy is not to accept a retainer unless the client has returned the required notices and forms that need to be filled out. Even at that stage, if you change your mind and do not want to file, or you simply do not want to work with me or my offices, I will review the work done for you and, if you are entitled to a refund, a refund will be given to you. The last thing I want is a client feeling that they are stuck with me. All that will generate is unhappiness in both the client and myself.
What happens after the initial consultation if you decide to retain my firm?
After the initial consultation, I will ask if you want to fill out the paperwork that I need in order to prepare your petition for bankruptcy or assist you with other forms of debt relief. Once all the paperwork given to you is carefully filled out, you will then return the paperwork to my office in Phoenix, along with a retainer. The amount of the retainer will be discussed during your consultation. At that point your file is opened and I will conduct what I call an Initial Investigation. The purpose of that investigation is to determine whether the information discussed at your consultation is still relevant and applicable and as such we can proceed as previously discussed. Once I have completed my initial review of your paperwork, I will contact you to discuss my findings and confirm that you still want to proceed as per my advice. If at that point you do not like what I have to say, or have changed your mind, I will return the paperwork you have provided to me and, if you are entitled to one, I will refund the retainer paid or a portion thereof.
If you decide to proceed with the process, your file will go to data entry which is in charge of gathering and verifying information. When data entry is complete, your file will come to me for a petition review and analysis. If you are filing a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, your reorganization plan will then be finalized. I will then discuss my final findings with you and schedule a signing appointment where we meet and go over all the paperwork to be filed.
Can you refer creditors, collection agencies, and their attorneys to my offices?
The short answer to this is yes, but it depends. After discussing this issue with me, together we can decide if it is advisable to refer some or all creditors to my offices. More often than not, I advise my clients to refer creditors to my office in Phoenix.
Larry helped us through a stressful time in our lives. He made the process seem less daunting and was with us every step of the way, answering any questions that we had. During the five years he was our attorney, he went above and beyond for our family.J.B.
A Bankruptcy Lawyer Who Cares
With an over 90% success rate, Attorney Larry Karandreas takes your case seriously. He personally handles all client correspondence, never overbooks his schedule, and makes sure every client receives his full attention.
Limited Caseload to Ensure Personalized Attention
Attorney Karandreas ensures that his caseload is not overloaded in order to provide top-quality care and attention to each of his clients.
Little to No Money Down on Bankruptcy Filings
We offer as low as $0 down on Ch. 13 filings and as low as $700 on Ch. 7 filings for qualifying cases.
Nearly 30 Years of Bankruptcy Experience
Although Attorney Larry Karandreas has done other areas of law, he is focused on providing top quality bankruptcy services because he gets to help people with particularly challenging cases.
After I am retained should I speak with my creditors?
The short answer to this is “no.” Once you have retained my services, you should not speak to your creditors, collection agencies, or attorneys representing your creditors. If you happen to answer the phone and a creditor, collection agency or attorney is on the line, if I have first advised you of same, let the creditor know that you have retained my office, that you have authorized me to speak on your behalf, and give them my number. Although a creditor may insist on obtaining more information from you, you should discontinue the phone conversation. Be firm but polite, irrespective of the lack of respect that a collection agency or a creditor may show you. Should you come into contact with a particularly rude creditor, or if a creditor is contacting you several times a day, immediately advise that creditor that you are recording the conversation. You will be surprised how quickly the creditor’s attitude will change. Keep records of all creditor contact, including the names, dates and times called, and if possible, the telephone number used to call you. This information can be invaluable, especially if the creditor has violated the provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
Does bankruptcy mean that you are a failure?
Many times people believe that the filing of a bankruptcy is indicative of being a failure. While bankruptcy may have a negative stigma, it is not a failure, it is an opportunity for a fresh start. Before bankruptcy was enacted, if you could not pay your debt, you were put in a debtor’s prison. Debtor’s prisons are not in existence in the United State for a good reason, they do not work. How can putting someone in jail for owing you money ever allow the debtor to address and pay back the debt owed? I would surmise that if given the choice, most people would eagerly file a bankruptcy rather than go to debtor’s prison.
Other times, clients have expressed that they had such a great credit rating and now, their rating is bad and with a bankruptcy it will only get worse. Do not let a credit rating define who you are! Usually, a credit rating is a means for the creditor to decide the amount of interest that it will charge for a loan. It has nothing to do with the person that you are. I have seen firsthand the pressure and pain my clients have gone through when I first encounter them. With my assistance, you will not be alone in dealing with the burden of your debt, including credit card debt, foreclosures, or collection lawsuits. If you are behind on your home mortgage, bankruptcy can help you keep your home. If you are behind on your car payments, bankruptcy can help you keep your car.
Simply put, remember back when you were a child playing a game with your friends. Sometimes a mistake, or an accident, or just plain luck costs you the game. Remember the feeling that you had when you were able to call a do-over, a mulligan, or a second chance. Bankruptcy is like a do-over and it will give you a second chance at a fresh start. I believe that at times it is good to find a second chance. The law allows you to find that second chance and with my guidance and experience, you will find that second chance and the fresh start that you deserve.
Do I really need to fill out forms and questionnaires? What am I paying you to do?
Occasionally clients will ask why they have to fill out the paperwork that they do. My answer is simple: you are the only person out there who knows all the facts regarding your debt. A credit report, while useful, does not paint a full picture. While the questionnaire I have people fill out may seem daunting, most of the questions asked are asked for the express purpose of finding out if you will have any problems in filing a bankruptcy. The majority of the questions asked can be answered with a “Yes,” “No” or “N/A.” Without proper information your lawyer cannot prepare a filing that accurately complies with the law, can protect you, and help you reach a successful conclusion in your bankruptcy case.
Will I need counseling certificates when I file?
Before you can file an individual non-business Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, you must take a class, either over the phone, in person or on the internet which, will provide you with a pre-filing counseling certificate. A list of Approved Debtor Education Agencies is located at www.justice.gov. I currently recommend the following web site that has provided clients with pre-filing counseling certificates: www.debtorcc.org Once you have completed the class, you will be presented with a counseling certificate to be filed with the Clerk of the Court.
In a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, while you have more time to file the certificate, I recommend taking the class as soon as possible as the class will provide you with the necessary tools to budget your income and expenses. The providers that I currently recommend are www.BKEducation.com and www.debtorcc.org.
How much will it cost me to file a bankruptcy?
While each case has its own specific set of circumstances and debts, in general my fees can be as low as $500.00 for a Chapter 13, with additional fees in the plan. In a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy the majority of the fees are included in your monthly payment and are paid through the bankruptcy plan. These fees do not include filing fees paid to the Clerk of the Bankruptcy Court, or an additional filing fee that may be paid in the event notices must be filed with the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office. In many instances, my fees can be adjusted depending on your ability to pay. For a Chapter 7 filing, the fees vary depending on what services need to be provided. The best way to gauge what the case will cost you is to contact me and arrange for a free telephonic consultation.