Debtor and Creditor

Debt & Credit: Preparing to Meet with a Lawyer

It can be a big waste of time for both you and the lawyer if you are not prepared for your first meeting. Being unprepared may also end up costing you money because it will take longer for the lawyer you hire to get up to speed on your legal matter.

First of all, the lawyer will want to know who you are and how you can be contacted. The lawyer may also ask for a personal and business background. The lawyer will clearly want to understand your relationship to the business and will want to be comfortable that you have the authority to speak on behalf of the organization.

If you are going into bankruptcy, it will be necessary to file detailed schedules with the bankruptcy court. Your lawyer may ask you to try to fill out the schedules before your meeting. Sometimes, a lawyer may also send you a questionnaire to fill out. Be sure to fill out the questionnaire and send it in to the lawyer's office before the meeting. Also send along copies of any available documents that may be requested in the schedules or the questionnaire.

If you're a debtor, bring a list of all your creditors. If the lawyer or the lawyer's firm represents anyone on the other side of the fence, he or she will have a conflict and will usually not be able to represent you.

A disclosure of all your financial affairs is extremely important where credit problems are an issue. If you don't tell your lawyer everything, you could be accused of bankruptcy fraud, which could prevent you from getting your debts discharged. In the worst case scenario, failing to disclose material information to the court could be a crime.

Written documentation of your debts and liabilities is especially important. Spend some time thinking about what you may have on hand. Try to organize the documents in a logical manner before you meet with the lawyer.

  • It's absolutely essential that you bring the originals and a copy of any and all loan or financing documents that you have in your possession. In the case of a loan, these documents may include a loan agreement, title policies, insurance policies, a promissory note, a security agreement, guaranties, "UCC" filings, deeds of trust, mortgages, and notices of default.
  • If you're a party to a lease, bring the lease itself
  • Bring any information you have to show you made payments (for example, bank statements, canceled checks, money order receipts)
  • If you're involved in a foreclosure proceeding, bring a copy of all foreclosure documents that you've received
  • Bring the originals and a copy of all correspondence that you may have sent to or received from your creditors
  • Dates can be critical. Get a calendar and mark down dates of when things happen and when you receive any notices or other documents. Bring the calendar to your meeting to use as a reference.
  • If anybody guaranteed a loan or a lease for you, the lawyer will want to know who the guarantor is. You should have this information available, as well as a copy of any guaranty documentation.
  • Your lawyer will want to know who you talked with, including the names of any representatives at financial institutions. You should have names, addresses, and telephone numbers available.

    Questions To Ask a Lawyer

    Prepare a list of questions to take with you to your first meeting. In theory, no question is too silly to ask. Keep in mind, though, that you do not want to scare a lawyer out of representing you.

    If you are a debtor, some questions you might ask a lawyer would include:

  • Should you fight the creditor or is it a lost cause?
  • Should you consider filing bankruptcy?
  • What might your other options be?
  • How many similar cases has he or she handled?
  • What percent of his or her practice is in the area of expertise that you need?
  • Does the lawyer usually represent debtors or creditors?
  • What problems does the lawyer foresee with your case?
  • How would the lawyer go about handling your situation? What is the process?
  • How long will it take to bring the matter to a conclusion?
  • How would the lawyer charge for his or her services?
  • Would the lawyer handle the case personally or would it be passed on to some other lawyer in the firm? If other lawyers or staff may do some of the work, could you meet them?
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