In order to give a better understanding of what to expect during your initial consultation with an attorney we interviewed Chicago attorney, George Basharis.
Q: What is the goal of an initial consultation?
A: The goal of an initial consultation is to educate a prospective client on the requirements of bankruptcy law. Most people are very concerned with the concept of filing for bankruptcy so I typically conduct the initial consultation in a low-key yet informative manner. By law, I must inquire into a potential client’s finances and into many various areas of the client’s financial past to determine for which chapter he or she is eligible. I try to obtain at least half of the information needed to file a bankruptcy case during the initial consultation and then follow up with a second appointment to review additional information and finalize my advice.
Q: Are clients expected to be certain they want to file for bankruptcy prior to scheduling the consultation?
A: No, a decision to file should be made only after the attorney has reviewed the client’s financial information and completed calculations as to the client’s income, expenses, assets, and debts.
Q: What happens during the initial consultation?
A: An attorney will analyze a prospective client’s financial situation, taking into account whether bankruptcy is the best option for the individual and whether alternatives to bankruptcy are available. The attorney will review the client’s assets, debts, income, and expenses to help the client find the best option to achieve financial stability.
Q: How long does the initial consultation last?
A: About 60 minutes.
Q: What are some of the hurdles to a successful initial consultation?
A: A prospective client is expected to respond honestly to the attorney’s questions and should not “hold back” any information the client feels will be detrimental to his or her case. Full disclosure of the facts is critical to the success of the initial consultation and overall to the client’s bankruptcy case. Otherwise, the success of the initial consultation in terms of obtaining the information needed to properly evaluate a client’s case depends mostly on the attorney’s interviewing skills.
Q: If you were a client, what would you be looking for in a lawyer at the time of the initial consultation?
A: I would look for an attorney who has experience representing debtors in consumer bankruptcy cases. I would expect to meet and have my case evaluated by the attorney and not by a member of the attorney’s support staff. I also would expect the attorney to discuss all options available to me in addition to bankruptcy.