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  • Writer's pictureBrett Weiss

What Happens at My Initial Consultation?

A new client calls me, and we set up a time to meet (via zoom). What should you expect to happen? What questions should you ask?

The answer differs significantly, depending on who your attorney is and how they handle things. This blog talks about what to expect when you have an initial consultation with me.

The first thing that I ask you to do is to complete the two-page Intake Questionnaire I email you. This Questionnaire first provides me with your basic information: you and (even if he or she won't be filing a joint case with you) your spouse's names, address, contact information, Social Security number. You then answer questions about whether there is a foreclosure, repossession, garnishment, or lawsuit pending. Your debt, broken down by type, amount, and who's responsible is next, followed by your and your spouse's gross income, your significant assets (real estate and vehicles) and some other assets. This information gives me the broad picture of your financial situation so that I can figure out the best way to approach things.

At this point, I don't need copies of your tax returns, your paystubs, your bills. The purpose of this meeting is for me to get the overall view of your situation: the forest, not the trees. Believe me, we will get into the fine details if the decision is made to file!

Please fill out the Questionnaire completely. Do not say "see attached" where you also send me copies of things, or a spreadsheet you've prepared, or other material unless I specifically ask you for it. Again, we may need this later, and I know that you want to tell me everything about your situation, but for our initial meeting what I really need is just the information I ask for on the Questionnaire.

It is important that you get the fully completed Questionnaire to me before our meeting, so that I have time to go through it and get some additional information. For example, I may check to see if you have any previous bankruptcies, as when you previously filed may affect the timing of a new case. I may check your deed to see how your real estate is titled, and its value, or check the value of your vehicles. All of these things will affect whether and when you should file, and if so, under which chapter. Since I want to spend our time speaking with you, I'd prefer not to have to look up this information while we're meeting.

During the meeting, I will review the Questionnaire with you. I may want you to give me some additional information about your circumstances. I will then ask some questions about other specific situations that may or may not apply to you -- businesses, domestic support obligations, intellectual property, lawsuits, etc.

Then, I go over the various chapters of the Bankruptcy Code (including those that don't apply to you, which I'm required to do!) I will explain whether I think that you are a good candidate for a bankruptcy filing or are not. Typically, I advise about 20% of my new clients not to file, at least not yet. If I think a bankruptcy makes sense for you, I will tell you what Chapter makes the most sense, what the benefits and disadvantages are, and what will be involved.

Before I discuss our fees, you may ask me any questions you have. While these can be about me and my experience and knowledge, mostly people ask about concerns they have -- can they keep their home, their car, their retirement? What about the loan their mom guaranteed? Can they keep a car, a house, a credit card, a loan out of the bankruptcy (no, but that doesn't mean they'll lose the house or car, and using a debit card is fine). And any other concerns they have.

I then quote my fee, we discuss payment arrangements, and I email a written retainer agreement and our more detailed Questionnaire.

All of this in 30 - 60 minutes. I've been doing this for a long time, have done thousands and thousands of initial consultations, and know exactly what information I'm looking for and what questions I can answer even before they're asked.

If you'd like to schedule a consultation with us, just Contact Me.

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