Something to consider before you hire just any Chapter 13 attorney

Something to consider before you hire just any Chapter 13 attorney

I am a proud member of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys. As a member I actively participate in a nationwide listserv of other bankruptcy attorneys.

One recent post caught my eye and I’m writing this blog post to warn you to choose your attorney carefully.

A newish-Chapter 13 attorney wrote a question about what he should do for his client who had recently been to a confirmation hearing with an appearance attorney.

First two definitions:

A ‘confirmation hearing’ is where a Chapter 13 plan goes from being a proposed plan to a binding plan. Once a plan is confirmed in our district, our court takes the view that changes to the plan are predicated on big changes to the debtor’s situation (like job loss).

An ‘appearance attorney’ is hired by the attorney who is named on the petition as representing the debtor. The appearance attorney has never met the debtor, and had no involvement in preparing the debtor’s petition. Most debtors never get the name of the appearance attorney, and have no way of contacting the appearance attorney if they have questions after leaving court. Supposedly the appearance attorney conveys the court proceedings back to the named attorney (who was too busy, or didn’t care, to attend court) Appearance attorneys are used routinely by certain law firms in Atlanta (not by me).

Now, back to the newish Chapter 13 attorney’s question:
The attorney wrote that the appearance attorney had ‘negotiated’ a deal with the Chapter 13 trustee to get the debtor’s plan confirmed. The ‘negotiation’ took the plan payment from $700 per month to $2000 per month. Newish-Chapter 13 attorney wrote, “how can I un-ring the bell rang by the appearance attorney? My client can’t afford a $2000 per month plan payment?”

Ugh. Ugh. and ugh.
The short answer is that newish-Chapter 13 attorney may be able to fix the error. In the Atlanta district, this would require an extraordinary amount of time from the attorney, and an extraordinary amount of frustration, uncertainty and anxiety visited upon the debtor. It is a bad, and totally avoidable, situation.

And that’s my warning to you dear reader.

Choose your attorney carefully. You will have many questions, concerns, and worries. The last thing you need is confusion stemming from not knowing whether your ‘attorney’s’ advice is reliable.

Call (404) 418 8879 to set up your consultation with me, Attorney McDuffie.