Livingston, NJ—Bankruptcy attorney Stuart Nachbar says that one of the biggest obstacles to people who are thinking of filing is misinformation.
“A lot of people believe that it's impossible to file for bankruptcy,” Nachbar told Laws.com in a recent interview. “The banks and the credit card companies have scared people into thinking that they will lose their homes and that there's no way to modify a home loan, and it's not true.”
Instead, he says, homeowners can often have options including a loan modification if they talk to the right bankruptcy attorney. Finding the right lawyer, though, can be trickier today than ever before. According to Nachbar, who has been practicing law since 1994, the market has recently been flooded with people calling themselves bankruptcy attorneys who really don't have the skills to call themselves specialists.
“You get so many fair or even not good attorneys filing petitions and screwing them up that word gets around that bankruptcy attorneys don't know what they're doing,” he explains. “Anybody can file a bankruptcy petition—it's having an exit strategy that's the hard part. You have to know your exit strategy before you file your petition to start.”
What that exit plan is can depend on what the filer is trying to accomplish, says Nachbar. “Are you going to be able to cram down the car value? Are you going to be able to modify the loan? Are you going to fight the IRS claim? Knowing these things going into the bankruptcy is being proactive, and it's always better to be proactive than reactive.”
Finding a good attorney isn't impossible, but Nachbar says it does require doing your homework: “Ask how long they've been doing this. Ask what percentage of cases they have had that failed to go through.”
While asking questions of attorneys is a good place to start, Nachbar suggests getting online to see even more about the lawyers you're interviewing. “You can go online to see recommendations of clients and of their peers,” he says. “If an attorney doesn't have a good reputation, they won't have a lot of peer reviews because they don't have the standing in the community. Everything is on the internet: the good, the bad, and the ugly.”
Another mistake many clients make, according to Nachbar, is waiting too long to talk to an attorney. “The longer you wait, the harder it is to deal with the issues. If you believe you are in financial trouble or suspect you are in financial trouble, don't wait to speak to a good bankruptcy attorney,” he says.
For an experienced attorney like Nachbar, taking on complex cases is just part of the job. “I always enjoy the complex case, because it makes me think,” he says. “It makes me be a creative lawyer, as opposed to doing something that is purely statutory and regulated. I like complex cases, but trust me: when you get too many complex cases, you long for a simple, straightforward one.”
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