What Difference can my Choice of Attorney Make?

Couple shaking hands after successful bankruptcy filing

Why Choose the Law Office of James H. MaGee, Washington Bankruptcy Attorney?

Let me ask you a question: “Would you seek out and hire the cheapest surgeon to operate on your child or grandchild? “ Of course you would not. Just like you, I believe that my children represent my future and my hopes and dreams. I would not deliver their fragile little bodies and precious futures into the hands of the cheapest surgeon offering the lowest bid, just so that I could save a few bucks. Likewise, your financial future by way of your “fresh start” through bankruptcy does represent a chance for the birth of new hopes and dreams for you and your family, just like the birth of a child offers a new beginning for hopes, dreams and accomplishments for your family. Your child may become a famous athlete, singer, teacher, successful businessman, loving parent and maybe even a judge or sheriff, and these are the hopes and dreams that you may have for your child’s future. We would hope that you would not turn your bankruptcy “fresh start” hopes and dreams for the future over to the lowest bidder, just as you would not hand over to the cheapest and lowest bidding surgeon that beautiful little child and her bright little future for a major surgical procedure on his precious little body.

Is the cheapest attorney really that much worse than everyone else offering bankruptcy services?

Cheap legal advice can be hazardous to your delicate and fragile “fresh start” future. We will provide you with a whole bunch of examples: A. First, excessive carelessness and high-speed by an “attorney in a hurry” is dangerous. First, cheap fees mean that to even “break even” on the case, the cheap attorney must do a rushed job with “quickie” appointments, so that his or her overhead can be covered by even a larger number of quickly rushed appointments. Just as with medicine and surgeries, carelessness and high-speed present a dangerous combination in professional matters. Small details in your case that make a great deal of difference to you and your loved ones (and even your church and co-workers) can be overlooked by a cheap attorney, with painful and disastrous consequences to you and others. You need careful pre-bankruptcy planning with a professional and conscientious attorney. You need a professional who will truly take the required time to listen to you and thoroughly interview you. You need this careful attention in order to avoid many stressful and expensive bankruptcy court case complications.

Some high volume/low fee attorneys do not even live in this state! A recent, and tragic, development is the new appearance of attorneys firms with operations based in Oregon or Illinois. These firms scurry desperately to cases all over the US of A. These far-flung firms may hire a “desperate for a job” young attorney with minimal legal experience who can’t find a job and will do anything for even a meager paycheck. These poor youngsters may not last long on the payroll of the out-of-state firm as they are worked nearly to death running all over the countryside. You thus may end up having three of four different “new hires” over the life of your bankruptcy case as these desperate young fellows pass on through the bankruptcy job, as the youngster knows from the outset that the bankruptcy job is nothing more than a temporary paycheck while he/she awaits something better to come along. Wouldn’t it be better to hire a stable, long-term attorney that is just a short drive from your home? Isn’t it better to be able to meet with the attorney on short notice and be confident that he or she will not miss important court hearings in your case because he/she is stuck in an airport in Chicago, Colorado or Eugene?

Here is just a sample of some problems that can occur when you go cheap and hire “an attorney in a hurry”. (1) Loss of property with shared ownership by members of the same family, with the property sold against the will of your family, including vacation lots, time shares, recreational vehicles, cars, boats and cabins. (2) Loss of time share and fractional ownership properties into which you have paid thousands of dollars. (3) Your relatives and friends hassled and threatened by the bankruptcy court because you gave the friend, co-worker or family member a loan when they were down on their luck and needed a helping hand. (4) Catastrophic denial of your bankruptcy petition because of a cumulative effect of failing to write down and disclose important information for review by the court. (5) Missing several days of work (and spending hard-earned money on gasoline and parking each time) to attend multiple court hearings because papers in your case were not delivered to the court in a timely manner. (6) Loss of your car for failing to send required paperwork to the court in a timely manner. (7) Loss of your house because the hurried attorney failed to inform you of court hearings involving requests to foreclose your home. (8) Catastrophic dismissal of your case because your attorney failed to ensure that you attended required classes or failed to notify you of a court hearing. (9) Late paperwork filed by the attorney results in the irreversible foreclosure and permanent loss of your home. (10) Complete and catastrophic loss of car accident, homeowners’ insurance claim and labor and industry (L&I) injury money that you were hoping to receive, with this money being grabbed and taken by the bankruptcy court and never returned to you. (11) Your church, temple, parish, ward, humane society or other favorite charity hassled, investigated and threatened by the bankruptcy court with demands that the well-meaning donations you made be returned to the bankruptcy court. (12) Your children being forced out of private school, college or trade school because of money that you earmarked or set aside to help them with their studies, books and fees. (13) Termination of your lease or apartment rental. (14) Your ex-wife or ex-husband being hassled and threatened to pay money to the bankruptcy court, even though your divorce was concluded long ago. (15) Threats to sell your rental properties, cars, family antiques and heirlooms against your will unless you pay extra money to the bankruptcy court. (16) Criminal prosecution and a federal prison sentence by the United States Department of Justice, United States Attorney General, for non-disclosure of information in your bankruptcy documents.

Second, the advice by the cheapest attorney may be too conservative and may waste your time and delay your fresh start. Cheap advice can waste your time, and delay your future. For instance, if you received sporadic overtime, the attorney might just say “don’t work more overtime and then come back in six months”. This is a possible answer, but it is incorrect because it is certainly not the best answer. However, it is the most convenient and easy answer for the attorney, but not the best answer for you. Instead of blowing you off for six months, the cheap attorney should have analyzed your case on the spot to see if you meet Chapter 7 filing criteria at that particular moment. While it was not “wrong” to advise you to delay, it is really not the best advice, but rather advice which is most convenient and easy for the financial interests of the attorney. The cheap attorney simply does not want to be bothered with the extra time and effort of preparing a “close call” case that requires more finesse to prepare, analyze and file with the court. Is it fair or ethical for the cheap attorney to ask you to continue suffering with garnishments, creditor threats and telephone harassment at work and home for the next six months just so that the attorney can have a little easier time doing the paperwork? We say that no, your interests should come first, not those of the cheap attorney. We want you want to start rebuilding your financial future now, not six months from now, so don’t let a cheap attorney waste six months of your life.

Third, the cheapest attorney is unlikely to negotiate the best deal if there arises some problem in your case. If the Court discovered you gave or lent money to friends or relatives within the past few years, those friends, relatives or co-workers might receive a demand that the funds be immediately turned over to the bankruptcy court. Now, the cheap attorney probably knows that he could over time negotiate a “deal” so that your friend or relative has to pay to the bankruptcy court no more than 40 or 50% of the money that you loaned or gifted to your relative, friend or coworker. The cheap attorney also probably knows, or should know, that with a bit of wrangling, complaining and negotiation with the court, the relative or friend would be allowed to make installment payments on the demanded obligation. Of course the bankruptcy court at first will demand 100% or perhaps 80% of the money in the first round, but the cheap attorney knows that these cases usually settle for much less after some ongoing and time-consuming wrangling, protests and negotiations. Do you want your cheap attorney to sell your relatives and friends down the river making them pay double what they should really have to pay, thus pressuring immediate payment of 80 or 100% of the obligation to the court when the cheap attorney knows that 40 or 50% is well within reach with just a little bit of effort? I believe that the cheapest attorney is unlikely to be concerned with much more than his or her small fee, and is unlikely to professionally negotiate the best deal for you and your loved ones when your case runs into trouble.