When debtors call a bankruptcy law firm, one of their most common questions is why can’t I pay my attorney fees after you have filed my case? There are many debtors who simply cannot afford to pay their filing fees prior to the filing of a bankruptcy due to garnishments that have already been imposed or unemployment. If a debtor has a garnishment that is or will be imposed or an imminent foreclosure coming up, they have a pressing need to get their case filed in order to avoid the garnishment or having their home foreclosed on. This creates an ethical dilemma for me, because as I really do want to be able to help people out and get their case filed, legally I cannot file their case without first getting paid unless I wanted to file the case pro-bono. Being that I am running a business, I would not be able to feed myself if I did everything for free, so the fees always need to be paid upfront. The courts filing fee, however may be paid in installments with the court.
A recent Florida bankruptcy case reinforced my thoughts on this matter that all fees need to be paid upfront due to the fact that when you file bankruptcy, all of the debtors debts are subject to an automatic stay which prevents creditors from collecting on debts. My fee would be included in the pre-petition debts and it would be discharged in the bankruptcy. This also creates a conflict of interest for the bankruptcy attorney because he is a creditor, yet also helping the debtor discharge their debts with other creditors.
Bankruptcy lawyers know that filing for bankruptcy can be expensive, however the buy now, pay later attitude is what got a lot of debtors in trouble in the first place. A bankruptcy petition can be time consuming to prepare and see through to the end. If you want to hire a quality bankruptcy lawyer and make sure you are taken care of, you should look for an attorney who offers personal service and will do a good job on your case. You don’t want to hire somebody who may be breaking ethical rules just to accommodate a debtors inability to pay the required fees.
If you have additional questions please contact Symmes Law Group at 206-682-7975 to set up a free consultation.