What (at a minimum) should you expect from your attorney?

What follows is my opinion on what you should expect from your attorney. They are the minimum standards of conduct necessary in order to build trust between an attorney and his client. My view is that you have a right, not just to ask for, but to demand the following:

Attorney John Menszer

Attorney John Menszer


His or her attention.

An attorney must listen to you in order to evaluate the facts of your case. He (or she) should pay attention to the details of your story. He should ask you questions in order to get you to focus on the critical facts of your case. He should be able to summarize what you said and feed you back what he heard. On the other hand, in many cases a story contains both legally relevant and legally irrelevant information. You may not be aware of the difference. Don’t be put off if at some point in order to save time your attorney wants to skip over the legally irrelevant parts of your story.

A prompt response to communications.

My thought here is that attorneys should return phone calls the same day, preferably within 3 hours, and emails by the next day at the latest. The premise is what is reasonable. If the attorney is in trial, he may not be able to meet this goal. But, you should feel that your attorney is accessible to your need to communicate with him.


Your attorney, like your doctor, should tell you the truth. He should not over-promise, but be realistic about your chances. If you give your case to an attorney who promises the moon, he will likely break that promise. You are hiring an attorney for his knowledge and his judgment. He should tell you what he knows and it is often appropriate that he share with you what he doesn’t know. (But it is OK if he says he has to do legal research in order to find the answer.)

An explanation.

An attorney should be able explain his view of your case up to your ability to absorb the information. Not everyone wants to know the how and why, but for those who do he should be available to explain the issues in your case.


Your case should progress in a timely manner. Frequently, unforseen complications arise that require an adjustment of the expected time frame. Nevertheless, you should be assured that your case is getting a fair share of your attorney’s attention.
Your best interest in mind.

They say that to a hammer every problem looks like a nail. I’m not sure what that means, exactly. But as a client I want my attorney to have my best interest in mind. It is possible in the legal arena to throw up a lot of sparks that give very little heat. Not e very case benefits by taking extreme measures. Compromise is sometimes better than a win, especially if it comes at a lower cost and in time. The services an attorney delivers should be appropriate to the case and the needs of the client, not just to the size of the client’s pocketbook.

Will bankruptcy improve my credit score?

It might seem counterintuitive, but filing bankruptcy usually improves a credit score. The estimated 12 month post-filing credit score typically shows increases of from 25 to 100 points. Expect still greater improvement if post-filing credit is applied for, used wisely and bills are paid promptly.

This is for several reasons. The bankruptcy liquidates most debts and although the old debts are still listed on the credit report, they are indexed as discharged,. The debtor has been legally relieved of the obligation to repay the unmanageable burden. Another reason is that Chapter 7 discharge means that the debtor will not be able to re-file another Chapter 7 for 8 years from the date of discharge.

The credit score improvement is reflected in the fact that a post-bankruptcy creditor will not be competing with the old creditors for a share of the JohnMenszer-3496 debtor’s income to service the debt. Then new creditor takes comfort that the Chapter 7 debtor will not be able to re-file and liquidate his debt for at least 8 years. This removes one of the risks to the creditor for the next 8 years. Also, the bankruptcy debtor has taken, and benefitted from, the required consumer credit and financial management educational courses.

My clients want to know when they will be able to apply for new credit to buy a car or purchase a home. I tell them your bankruptcy is a public record and each creditor may interpret it differently as they weigh your financial strength. An auto finance firm may be willing to take your application as soon as your bankruptcy discharge is issued by the court. A company making home loans may want to wait until 2 years have passed since your bankruptcy before considering your application.

The right to bankruptcy is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution at Article 1, Section 8, Clause 4. The founding fathers wanted you to have the advantage of being able to make a fresh start and to be a productive member of the economy free of overwhelming debts. After filing bankruptcy it is likely that you can anticipate your credit score to improve after your discharge is issued.

What papers should I bring when I see my attorney?

JohnMenszer-8123For your initial visit with your bankruptcy attorney you may not need to bring any papers because he or she will be getting the general overview of your financial picture. That said, to file your Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy the following documents will eventually be required.

I’ve listed them by category.

Read more