Debt settlement is something everyone being sued for past-due debt should consider, assuming they legally owe the debt. Mistakes in debt settlements, though, are costly. But, you can always reduce the risk of these mistakes when you hire the right legal help.
Here are four tips for choosing the right debt settlement lawyer.
Value Expertise and Experience
The best lawyer for debt settlement cases is one who practices this type of law all the time. You don’t want to hire a friend right out of law school who doesn’t understand the statutes of limitations or the little things like ensuring that the settlement agreement says the creditor cannot come after you for an outstanding balance after you give them the agreed upon payment. Nor do you want to work with a family law expert giving you advice on settling debt in the hope of speeding up a divorce case.
In general, you don’t want to rely on a company that only “settles” debt, since they often recommend that you don’t pay debts for a while and then set up a payment plan where you pay as much as was originally owed, though they’ll collect that difference. Debt settlement companies regularly fail to tell clients that the amount owed will actually balloon due to added fees and interest.
Meet the Lawyer for a Consultation
In all cases, it’s usually better that you work with a local lawyer that you can actually meet rather than working with someone strictly over the internet or phone. And make sure the lawyer you consider is reputable and experienced in handling debt settlements.
You should first schedule a consultation with your prospective lawyer, and make sure that this will be the person handling the case. It’s essential that you know if lawyers handle cases personally or if they’re forwarded to someone else in the practice that will work on them. Never hire a debt settlement negotiator who says they are “attorney backed.”
Another issue to research is how the lawyer and the law firm, as a whole, treats its clients. Do they return calls quickly? Do they push people to accept settlements without answering questions? Do they provide assistance if the collector tries to sue them after accepting payment? Are their own fees reasonable for the services they provide? Conversely, do they try to take over the client’s financial life and charge them a fortune for the service? Do they push people into meetings with paralegals who work off standard forms and don’t provide legal advice for complex cases?
During your consultation, make sure that you see what kind of rapport they have with you. They should be attentive to your needs and really want to help. Too many debt settlement lawyers end up treating their clients like numbers, which could affect your case. They may have a one size fits all approach to your case and offer a standard deal for all settlements. They might not go the extra mile to get you the best settlement possible. So, make sure that the law firm you choose is truly dedicated to their clients instead of just going through the motions and getting the cases settled as quickly possible.
Identify Those Who Can Help You with All Your Options
You don’t want to rush to the first debt settlement law firm that shows up in the online lists, since they may not be able to help you if the best choice for your situation is to file for bankruptcy or file charges for identity theft instead. You want to work with a reputable attorney who understands all of the options available to you and helps you recognize the right choice for your particular situation.
Do Your Due Diligence
You should do your due diligence before hiring a lawyer for debt settlements. For example, you don’t want to hire a lawyer who essentially works for a debt settlement firm and routes all customers to a costly debt settlement company that costs more over the long run than paying off your debts (including interest).
You also need to research the law firm to verify that they actually practice law, since some debt settlement companies masquerade as law firms but cannot provide representation if creditors sue you or you need to file bankruptcy.
A bit of research will pay off in finding a reputable debt settlement lawyer in no time. A good lawyer will have a direct influence on how much you’ll be able to save and will fight on your behalf to make sure you come to a reasonable deal. Whatever you do, make sure that you only work with experienced debt settlement experts who have your best interest in mind.