How Much Should You Pay For A Bankruptcy Attorney In New York?

When filing for bankruptcy, you don’t want to pay too much for an attorney. You also don’t want to pay too little.

There are about a dozen bankruptcy attorneys who routinely file Chapter 7 cases in New York City. When it comes to Chapter 13, there are maybe half that number.

Looking at those of us with the most practical experience, you’ll see some trends.

We’ve all been practicing bankruptcy law for more than a decade.  We all take on difficult issues when necessary, and have a good working relationship with the trustees.

And on the continuum of legal fees, we charge about 20% more than most of the other bankruptcy attorneys.

Why is that? And how much should you expect to pay for a lawyer if you’re in New York City?

Look For Competence And Experience First

Experience doesn’t translate into competence – just because you’ve been doing something for a long time doesn’t necessarily mean you’re any good at it.

That’s why you need to look for experience as well as competence.  That maximizes the chance that you’re getting a bankruptcy lawyer who’s been around the block a few times and has a good relationship with the court and the trustees.

Your first step is to look up the attorney on the Unified Court System’s attorney search website. Every lawyer in New York is listed there, and the system will tell you how long he or she has been licensed in New York State.

From there, hit Google and type in the attorney’s name. Look at every possible review site to see what people are saying about him or her.  It’s not a hard-and-fast rule, but someone with no reviews and no online footprint is suspicious in my book. In that sense, a bad review is almost as useful as a good one – at least it shows that the lawyer’s active in the field.

Taking a few minutes on these two steps won’t solidify your decision, but it will narrow the field a bit.

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Get A Feel For The Lawyer

You’re going to want to make a few phone calls to get a sense for the attorney as well as the way they run their practice.

Is there an office staff, or is the bankruptcy attorney a true solo?  There are benefits to both set-ups, as well as downsides.

Does the attorney provide a lot of information on a website, blog or social media platform?  If so, can you understand it or is it all densely-packed legalese that makes your head swim?

How about industry associations? Certifications and extra educational programs?  These can be proof of an attorney who takes the field seriously.

Expect To Pay For Advice

Lots of bankruptcy attorneys in New York offer free consultations in one form or another. That consultation is typically a very broad overview of bankruptcy options, and seldom a deep dive into your specific problem.

There’s a reason for that. Advice and analysis takes some time, and requires a deep understanding of your situation.  If a bankruptcy attorney is giving that away for free, you’ve got to question the value of what you’re getting.

After all, you get what you pay for.

What’s The Range Of Legal Fees?

A Chapter 7 bankruptcy from an experienced and competent bankruptcy lawyer in New York City should run you somewhere in the $2,500 – $3,000 range, more if you have significant assets or own a business.

For Chapter 13 cases, the fee range should be in the $6,500 – $7,500 range and cover all of the typical steps involved in handling your case for the entire 3-5 year Plan period.

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A Tough Decision That’s Worth It

I know you don’t have a ton of spare cash sitting around waiting to be spent on some fancy-pants lawyer.

You’ve got to balance reality with the marketplace, and get the best lawyer you can afford.

But if you make your decision based solely on cost then you may end up getting exactly what you paid for.

What do you think? Have you filed for bankruptcy in New York with a lawyer? If so, sound off in the comments section to tell us how much you paid – and if it was worth it.

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About the Author:

I've been a consumer protection lawyer since 1995, working to help people end their bill problems. I'm a faculty member at the Student Loan Law Workshop, a nationally recognized speaker, and a long-time member of both the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys and National Association of Consumer Advocates.