In an earlier post, we wrote about how we price our Chapter 7 cases. One of the first things a potential client wants to know during a consultation is how much bankruptcy costs. Obviously, every case is different, but here’s a rough version of how we price cases in Chapter 13.
1. You pay a flat fee out-of-pocket. When you’re in financial trouble, you want predictability. You don’t want your lawyer to run up the bill on you. That’ why we quote you a flat fee at the beginning of the process, and that’s what you pay. No fine print, no hidden fees. We agree on it at the start so you can plan for the expense.
2. You don’t need to pay your whole fee upfront in Chapter 13. Unlike Chapter 7, in a Chapter 13 case we don’t need the whole bankruptcy fee up front. In fact, in many cases Chapter 13 costs less upfront than Chapter 7–some people even opt for Chapter 13 because of our flexible pricing. We generally require a minimum of $1,000 before filing in a Chapter 13, but this can depend on your case.
3. We can get the rest of our fee out of your creditors’ pockets. In Chapter 13, we can apply to the court for our remaining fee. Because this comes out of the Chapter 13 payments you’re already paying, in most cases it doesn’t cost you an extra dime. In fact, if you’re looking for an extra way to stick it to your creditors, here it is. The money we receive from the Chapter 13 payments would have lined their pockets if we hadn’t applied for it. Our total fee comes out to $2,500 for below-median income cases, $3,000 in above-median cases, or greater if we can prove to the court that it was necessary to charge more.
4. The filing fee. In a Chapter 13 case, there is a court filing fee of $281 and mandatory credit counseling fees (for our clients, credit counseling runs around $68 for a single filer or $87 for joint filers). You pay those fees to us and we forward them as needed.
And remember–you may not want to bargain-hunt on bankruptcy. The best lawyers will quote you a fair price, but the worst ones will probably discount their fees to try to take business from the good ones. You want a lawyer who’s experienced enough to understand a lot of the tricks and traps of bankruptcy. You also want someone who’ll be available to answer your questions, and won’t blow you off because they’re too busy with all their other cases. And you want someone who’s willing to use the bankruptcy law creatively to help you improve your situation. As it happens, we know a couple of guys who fit the bill pretty well.