Meeting a Bankruptcy Attorney

Belleville 618.236.7000
Granite City 618.656.7941

Radio Segment Transcript

J: New housing numbers once again up, good news for the economy. You’ve seen the Dow is up, kind of back to where it was at the beginning of the year. Some good news going on, but still, the number of foreclosures right now in the United States: 1 out of every 20 people is apparently behind on their housing payment. One out of twenty is facing foreclosure down the road – bad news on that front. So you see all this news continuing and you know more and more people are facing bankruptcy as well. Joining us to talk once again is Jim Haller, he is with The Bankruptcy Company, is the website. Here is the fear: I got an e-mail last week after we had you on the air, talking about the process of bankruptcy. First of all, that scares a lot of people. Here is one of the questions I got: I need to find out more information, BUT I would have no idea what to tell an attorney, and I’m scared to death to go in and meet with him. Is that a valid fear?

JH: No, it’s really not. I’m going to kind of lay it out for you, John, and if somebody really wants to come in and see a bankruptcy attorney, let me just kind of demystify it a little bit and help you to see what it’s like when they come on in. First of all, you’re going to call and you’re going to make an appointment. A lot of times people will have questions when they call in, and they want specific answers – am I going to be able to save my house, or save my car? Don’t be discouraged if the attorney or the staff member you talk to says, “I really can’t give you that information yet.” You’ve got to remember that you need to go talk to an attorney, frankly about anything, because giving you a lot of advice over the phone is kind of risky for an attorney – it’s kind of like calling a doctor and saying that you just got in a car accident and your head hurts and your leg is kind of twisted funny, and asking what he recommends that you do.

J: “I’ve got a fever – is it the swine flu? I need an answer now.”

JH: That’s exactly right.

J: It’s a little bit scary, so obviously first they have to come in and see you – but then what? OK, I’m in front of you, and I’m probably in a bad place if I’m coming to see you – then what?

JH: First of all, actually even before you come in to see me, you want to ask a few questions. You want to know if it’s going to be a free consultation when you come in, because sometimes people will go in, they will meet with an attorney, and it won’t be a free consultation and it will be a surprise when they get the bill in the mail.

J: I found that one out the hard way recently.

JH: If it is a free consultation, ask them how long it lasts. Are they going to give you 5 minutes, 10 minutes, an hour? Ask them if there are any strings attached – do I have to sign something while I’m there? Do I have to agree that I’m going to have to file bankruptcy when I show up? At our office we offer anybody who wants to come in to talk to us an hour of free consultation, sometimes even longer depending on their circumstances, there are no strings attached, and it’s free. And that’s the kind of people you want to talk to when you go to see a bankruptcy attorney, because we don’t want people to feel that because they’re coming in they have to file. Frankly, I’d rather have people coming in who have examined other options, who have tried other things to work their way out of their debt, and when they run out of options then they come in and see us. And I could tell you that all of the bankruptcy attorneys I know are very, very nice men and women.

J: The title just scares a lot of people, but you’re nice guys.

JH: They’re not going to judge you. Bankruptcy is like the flu – it affects everybody. It’s not just the poor, it’s not just the rich, not just the middle class, it affects everybody. You’d be surprised at how many people you know that have filed bankruptcy, they just don’t make a big production about the fact that they’ve filed.

J: What about the documentation though? I would imagine that if you’re going to lay out the case for somebody, you’ve got to know how bad it is, so how in the world would they get enough information to actually come to you and say, “Doc, am I in trouble here?”

JH: Well they don’t have to worry a lot about the documentation right away. There are some basic things that we like to see: bring in your paycheck stubs, as many as you can find; if you can find your tax returns for the last two years, that would be great…

J: This is like getting a mortgage.

JH: It kind of is, because when you file a bankruptcy we’ve got to disclose a lot of information, and we’re basically laying all of your financial cards out for the Court, and we’re saying, “This is where we’re at, and this is why we need help.” But to start off with, usually with some basic information we can give you an idea of what we can do, just kind of like when you go to a doctor and he first examines you, “Yup, that feels like a broken leg, we need to get a little more information, like an x-ray.” So we usually send people home after the first appointment to get some information and bring it back to us at a second appointment, and we’ll sit back down and meet with them again for awhile and basically run through their options.

J: I would imagine, though, much like the doctor analogy, that a lot of people don’t get treated because they don’t want to hear the bad news.

JH: Right, and frankly, when I have clients come in they usually say, “You’re the last person that I wanted to see.” I used to take offense at that. Now I kind of laugh about it because I know that when they leave my office most of my clients will say, “Boy, I feel so much better having gotten this off of my chest, and so much better knowing that I have a solution to work my way out of this problem.” It’s really the best part of the job. You really feel like when people walk out of your office they have a little more spring in their step, they have a little more hope, and it doesn’t happen for everybody, but for most people it gives them a lot of relief.

J: So if you go down that process and say, “Yeah, we have to go ahead and file bankruptcy,” what is the process then? Is it a long process or are you absolved of some of those debts pretty quickly?

JH: Depending on what type of bankruptcy you file, the bankruptcy process is going to last anywhere from 4-5 months if you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, to 3-5 years if you enter a repayment plan for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. You want to make sure that when you get an attorney, that attorney is going to be with you during the entire case, and that the attorney lays out for you what they’re going to do for you and how much it’s going to cost. Frankly, when you first come in and meet with them, even before you agree to hire them, they should disclose what their costs are and what it’s going to involve at the very beginning. And that’s what we do for our clients. We feel that an educated client will be a lot happier. But the bankruptcy process, once we get past the initial stage, which is collecting the documents and assessing the information, then the bankruptcy process kind of takes care of itself. There are one or two meetings that you may need to go to after the bankruptcy is filed, generally the trustees, who are officials appointed by the Court to basically monitor your bankruptcy, will have additional questions or clarifications or creditors may have some issues with you, but in general it usually runs very, very smoothly after the bankruptcy is filed.

J: So the bottom line is, if you’re facing some troubles, you’ve just got to get in there, right – no fears, just come in and meet.

JH: Just come in and talk to us and we’ll let you know what your rights are.

Memberships & Associations


Belleville Location

The Bankruptcy Center
5312 West Main Street
Belleville, IL 62226
Tel: 618.236.7000

Granite City Location

The Bankruptcy Center
2021 Johnson Road, Suite 1
Granite City, IL 62040
Tel: 618.656.7941


The Law Office of Ronald A. Buch is a debt relief agency, helping people file for bankruptcy relief under the Bankruptcy Code.