How Do I Know If a Bankruptcy Attorney's Fees Are Reasonable?
Is your bankruptcy attorney charging too much for your bankruptcy case? Learn what reasonable attorney fees are in bankruptcy.
Attorney fees for filing a bankruptcy case can vary significantly depending on:
- whether you are filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy
- how complicated your case is
- the amount of experience the attorney has, and
- where you live.
In most cases, the best way to determine whether a bankruptcy attorney’s fees are reasonable is to consult different attorneys in your area to learn how much they would charge for your case. But some courts also have guidelines that establish presumptively reasonable fee amounts.
To learn more about whether it’s in your best interest to hire a bankruptcy attorney, see our topic area on Getting Help With Your Bankruptcy.
Are You Filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?
How much an attorney will charge for your bankruptcy depends largely on the type of bankruptcy case you wish to file.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Attorney Fees
If you want to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, most attorneys will charge a fee based on how difficult or complicated your case is. For example, if you are an unemployed debtor who has little or no assets, your attorney fees should be much lower than for a married couple with a significant amount of income and assets. In most cases, attorney fees for Chapter 7 bankruptcy will range from $1,000 to $2,500. But they can be more or less depending on your particular case.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Attorney Fees
In general, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is more complex and requires more work than a Chapter 7. For this reason, attorney fees are typically higher for Chapter 13 cases. Depending on the complexity of your case as well as the local guidelines in your jurisdiction, you can usually expect to pay anywhere from $2,500 to $4,500 in attorney fees for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Fortunately, most attorneys will not require you to pay the entire fee upfront. They will typically require a certain portion of your fee before the case is filed, and then allow you to pay the remainder over the next three to five years through your Chapter 13 repayment plan.
For more information, see Typical Attorney Fees in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.
Look for Court Guidelines That Establish Presumptively Reasonable Fee Amounts
Bankruptcy judges have the power to review the fees attorneys charge to make sure that they are reasonable. Because fee reviews can be extremely time consuming, many courts have guidelines that establish presumptively reasonable attorney fees. In general, these guideline fee amounts are more common in Chapter 13 bankruptcy than a Chapter 7.
Except in rare circumstances, if your bankruptcy attorney’s fees are below the court’s guideline amount, the court will not review them further. Most bankruptcy attorneys will typically charge the court’s guideline amount for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. But if your case is very simple, you may be able to negotiate a lower amount.
Request Fee Quotes from Different Attorneys
In addition to how complicated your bankruptcy is, attorney fees can differ based on where you live and the amount of experience the attorney has. When hiring a lawyer, make sure to choose an attorney who has the necessary skill and expertise to handle your case. But if you have a simple bankruptcy, it may not be in your best interest to pay extra for an attorney just because he or she has several years of experience.
To determine whether a bankruptcy attorney’s fees are reasonable, talk to different attorneys in your area and compare how much they would charge based on the individual facts of your case.
To learn more about how to choose a bankruptcy attorney, see What to Look for in a Bankruptcy Lawyer.