The initial consultation with a good bankruptcy lawyer is a very informative and valuable experience for many reasons. It is an opportunity to “interview” the lawyer to see if you believe the lawyer is qualified and whether he or she will be easy to work with. It is also an opportunity to spend an hour or so with an expert discussing your specific situation and circumstances. Good lawyers will ask questions and answer your questions. While many lawyers who have blogs and websites like this try to provide a lot of general information about Bankruptcy, there is simply no substitute for getting individualized advice. Since these meetings are almost always at no cost to you, it is also good to at least have a detailed telephone conference with one or two other lawyers before making a decision. With that in mind I would like to suggest you ask this question toward the end of the consultation: “Why would I NOT file a Bankruptcy case now?” A follow up might be “what would happen if I did not file, or I wait a few weeks or months to file?”
In a way, this seems like a pretty simple question, but in reality many consultations naturally focus on the necessity of filing, the benefits of filing, and the ins and outs of getting through a case. Often, unfortunately, people are rushed through a meeting, given a sales pitch that Bankruptcy is the only possible solution for them, and then asked to sign a fee agreement and a check (if not a skeletal petition that has been hastily prepared as a tactic to lock in the “sale”). Sometimes the reasons or ramifications of not filing just don’t get addressed because of time or simple oversight, so if you are facing a Bankruptcy and going to consultations, ask the question. The answer may be obvious, such as “your house will be sold at foreclosure in 2 weeks,” or it may be much more involved. Good lawyers will tell you when filing is a bad idea, or that you need to wait. Either way, whether obvious or not, you need to leave the meeting with an understanding of what it means to not file a case. If it has not been discussed, be sure to ask.