Some bankruptcy lawyers ask for a load of documents when you go for your first meeting. But it’s what’s in your head that matters most.
When I started practicing bankruptcy law in 1995 I had a tremendous list of documents I’d ask my clients to have with them when they came for their first meeting with me.
Add to that a questionnaire clocking in at well over 30 pages of densely-packed information.
This, in an age when filing for bankruptcy was far simpler than it is now. I told clients it was all required in order to be sure no stone was left unturned in the quest for debt relief.
Now, just about 18 years later, things have changed for the better.
What We Need To Accomplish During Your First Meeting
The goal of your first meeting is to determine whether bankruptcy is right for you and, if so, which type of bankruptcy will provide the greatest amount of relief for your bill problems.
Beyond that is the question of whether I’m the right bankruptcy lawyer for you. Not every bankruptcy lawyer is a good fit for every person, and that’s true when it comes to working with me as well.
For example, most of the work I do with my bankruptcy clients takes place without an office visit. If you’re not comfortable working with a bankruptcy lawyer by email, fax, phone and regular mail then we’re not going to be a good fit for one another.
How We Accomplish Those Goals
Most of what we do during the first meeting is talk about your financial situation, your goals, and your most pressing needs. You’ll discuss your debts, your assets, and your money in general.
In order to have a reasonable conversation about those things, you’re going to want to have certain documents handy.
Information about your income (paystubs if you’re employed, a profit-and-loss statement if you work for yourself or own a business), debts and property should be at the ready so we can get some solid numbers.
Beyond that, there’s not much I can reasonably ask you to have until after we’ve spoken. You could trot out all of your bills and bank account statements for the past two years or more, but what’s the point of doing so if your debts are old or your main problem centers around your student loans?
The Most Important Part Of Your First Meeting
When you’re ready to talk about the possibility of filing for bankruptcy with a lawyer, you should be prepared to talk a lot about your past. Where you’ve lived, where you’ve worked, and your financial dealings over the past few years are important.
You’ll spend a lot of time telling me about your household income, as well as how much goes out the door each month for living expense. You’re going to want to review things before we talk so that we can have a discussion about those sorts of things.
The Result Of Your First Meeting With A Bankruptcy Lawyer
By the end of your first meeting, we’ll have an action plan put together regarding what we can do and how we’re going to accomplish your goals. You’ll have a full list of the documents and information I really need to get your bankruptcy case prepared.
That document list will be designed to provide me with the information I’m going to need through the end of your bankruptcy case, or as much of it as exists right now. None of it will be optional, and all of it will be important.
More to the point, you’ll end that first meeting with a level of certainty about your solutions and whether bankruptcy can help you.
Image credit: karola riegler photography
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