The old adage goes: “You get what you pay for.” Attorneys offering cut-rate bankruptcy services are usually either inexperienced and need to attract clients, or run a “petition mill” and do not intend to spend much time on your case. Unfortunately, a bankruptcy debtor cannot rely upon the good nature of the bankruptcy court or the trustee if your attorney fails in his or her duty to zealously represent the client.
Long Island bankruptcy attorney Craig D. Robbins writes about a recent example of bad lawyering in New York. The attorney in this case was apparently clueless regarding exemption laws and bankruptcy procedure. The issue was a $5,000 payment, which could have been protected by claiming the proper bankruptcy exemption. The attorney failed to identify the asset, failed to properly amend the bankruptcy schedules to account for it once it was discovered by the bankruptcy trustee, and failed to use the proper exemption to protect it.
Do you think the bankruptcy trustee was sympathetic to this attorney or his clients?
Once the case was in court, the bankruptcy judge apparently took some pity upon the clients and sua sponte applied a $1,000 state exemption. He also ordered the debtors to turn over the remaining unprotected $4,000. He did not point out that the entire asset could have been protected had the debtors elected to use other exemptions available to them.
I cannot emphasize this enough: if you hire an inexperienced or inept attorney, or decide to represent yourself, do not expect the bankruptcy trustee or the bankruptcy judge to “help you out.” In fact, acts of incompetent counsel will draw the ire of the trustee and the court it because wastes valuable time and resources. The trustee and court have better things to do than to fix your attorney’s mistakes.
Bankruptcy is a serious matter than demands the attention of an experienced attorney. Not all attorneys are able to adequately represent a debtor in bankruptcy. Choose an attorney that regularly practices bankruptcy law and keeps informed of the changes in consumer debtor laws. The little extra you spend on your competent counsel will be paid back ten fold by avoiding problems.