Denver bankruptcy attorney Jon B. Clarke offers flexible flat fee and hourly rate agreements to make filing for bankruptcy affordable for you.

Denver bankruptcy attorney Jon B. Clarke offers flexible flat fee and hourly rate agreements to make filing for bankruptcy affordable for you.

Denver Bankruptcy Attorney Jon B. Clarke Offers Flexible Flat Fee and Hourly Rate Agreements

Debtors seeking bankruptcy counsel are one of three types. Those who must base their decision on Price are attracted to “bankruptcy mills” whose attorneys advertise $499 and $599 flat fees. Most if not all client contact is with thinly-trained office staff, essentially “petition preparers”. The mills have been criticized as “bait and switch” advertisers as the ultimate fee the client ends up paying is substantially higher. Those debtors looking for Value avoid the mills and seek counsel among the many attorneys (some not long out of law school) who quote flat fees in the $1,000 – 2,500 range. Debtors with above-average incomes, struggling or failed businesses, divorce, lawsuits, tax, dischargeability, Means Test and other complex issues feel the need for senior counsel with acknowledged Expertise.

Finding the right bankruptcy attorney isn’t easy. Here are three tips courtesy of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys:

  1. Experience Look for an attorney with many years of experience in consumer and business bankruptcy law who enjoys the respect of other bankruptcy attorneys, trustees, and judges. Many so-called “bankruptcy attorneys” pursue a broad-spectrum general practice, filing a bankruptcy case only now and then.
  2. Education and Competence With the comprehensive 2005 changes to federal bankruptcy law, education is critical. Many concepts and procedures of the prior law were made obsolete. The new law (especially the Means Test) is highly complex and subject to different interpretations. Not all attorneys have learned how to successfully guide their clients through the less-debtor-friendly environment after 2005.
  3. Someone who will Listen to You An attorney who tells you what to do before thoroughly understanding the facts of your situation is not right for you. Every debtor is unique. One size doesn’t fit all. Find an attorney who listens to your facts and asks the right questions before giving you advice.

A Cheap Lawyer is No Bargain It is said there are good lawyers and there are cheap lawyers, but there are no good, cheap lawyers. Like anything else in life, with lawyers “you get what you pay for”. Finally, consider this-since you’re paying for your bankruptcy with the creditors’ money, you might as well go First Class.

Colorado attorney Jon B. Clarke has over thirty five years of experience in a statewide bankruptcy practice, but primarily for clients in the Denver Metro area, including Littleton, Lakewood, Centennial, Lone Tree, Greenwood Village, Englewood, Highlands Ranch, Parker, Elizabeth, Castle Pines, and Castle Rock. Since 1983 he has had the highest-possible legal ability rating from attorneys and judges. He becomes personally knowledgeable about every client’s financial situation prior to accepting or filing the case. His legal assistant has over thirty years of experience filing consumer and business bankruptcy cases. He is then prepared to give detailed, personalized legal advice concerning the 2005 Debt Relief Agency Act, Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 personal bankruptcy, Chapter 11  business reorganization, and bankruptcy alternatives. Accordingly, his fees are higher than a less-experienced, less-involved, and un-rated attorney might quote. Before calling or emailing, please read Becoming A Client and fill out the Business Consumer Debtor Analysis Form (the “BCD”).  Also read our Client Testimonials. The firm’s current policy on fees for filing bankruptcy (subject to periodic updating) is as follows:

  • Initial telephone conversation with a consumer debtor, where preceded by an emailed or faxed BCD Form, is at  no charge
  • Get Aquainted and Educated

Some clients have no imminent need for debt relief, but want to know what’s available should the debt situation worsen. Over the years Mr. Clarke has created the Three S Meeting for these clients. It’s a face-to-face meeting with Mr. Clarke in his office behind a closed door of roughly two hours duration. The first “s” is for “status”. Mr. Clarke reviews the Checklist documents and determines client assets, debts, income, expense, and pending or potential collection activity. The second “s” is for “scenarios”. Mr. Clarke analogizes creditor-debtor interplay to a chess game. Each side has pieces on the board and moves them in anticipation of or in reaction to the moves of the other. Do nothing, Chapter 7, Chapter 11, and private debt workout scenarios are discussed. The third and final “s” is for “strategy”. Mr. Clarke will suggest one or more courses of action the client should consider implementing going forward. The Three S Meeting is a flat-fee of $500, which is paid in advance via Pay Pal (below) or in cash at the outset of the meeting.

After the Three S Meeting there is no further obligation for Mr. Clarke or for the client(s). They have simply bought two hours of office face time to get acquainted and educated. If the client subsequently decides to engage Mr. Clarke’s services on a more-permanent basis, the Initial Office Consultation may take less time. The holding of the Three S Meeting may result in a reduced Chapter 7 flat fee.

  • Initial Office Consultation:

At the Initial Office Consultation the client brings the requested financial documents (see the Checklist page) and has basic questions answered. An Initial Consultation (fee) Agreement is discussed and signed. For Chapter 7 cases, an Initial Consultation Fee in a mutually-agreeable amount is payable at the Initial Office Consultation. This fee has held steady for many years at $500. When all of the necessary documents have been received and analyzed, legal advice and recommendations are given at a Pre-Bankruptcy Analysis Meeting. If the client decides to go forward into Chapter 7 Phase Two, some or all of the estimated Chapter 7 Flat Fee is paid. If the client subsequently decides not to file (which is rare but occasionally does happen), all time spent on the case is billed at Mr. Clarke’s current hourly rate. If there is an unearned portion of the Retainer on hand when the representation ends, it will be refunded.

  • Final Office Meeting:

At the Final Office Meeting all Chapter 7 documents have been prepared and need only client and attorney signatures to be ready for filing. In the process of receiving, reviewing, and analyzing client documents, all necessary asset, debt, and transactional information will have been disclosed. Attorney and client will have discussed and agreed on a Flat Fee which takes into account any legal or factual complexities presented by the client’s situation. Client will be asked to complete payment of the agreed Flat Fee plus the Filing Fee, and enter into a comprehensive Attorney-Client Retainer Agreement.

  • Flat Fee Guidelines:

Chapter 7 clients fall into two major categories, Assisted Persons (consumer debtors) and Nonassisted Persons (business debtors). The consumer debtors have no business debts. The business debtors have primarily business debts as well as consumer debts. The Flat Fee is in a mutually-agreeable amount, depending always on the unique factual and legal complexities each debtor brings to the table. Consumer debtors present fewer issues and require less attorney time than business debtors, which means a lesser Flat Fee.

  • Exclusions:

The Flat Fee contemplates that creditors will not object to dischargeability and the United States Trustee will not challenge the debtor’s choice of Chapter 7 as a violation of the Means Test or otherwise a substantial abuse of the Bankruptcy Code. The Flat Fee does not cover out-of-the-ordinary situations, including but not limited to, defending creditor motions for relief from stay, objections to debtor’s claim of exemptions, and examination (deposition) of the debtor other than at the Meeting of Creditors. Nor does it cover obtaining Orders of Abandonment, defending actions taken by unscheduled/undischarged creditors, dealing with credit reporting agency problems, or caused by debtor’s post-filing actions or inactions. Representation of debtors in the above or other unpredictable situations is available, at an additional charge, as described in the Attorney-Client Retainer Agreement which is discussed and signed at the final office meeting.

  • Hourly Rate:

Representation other than inclusive in the Flat Fee, as described in the Attorney-Client Retainer Agreement is at the firm’s Hourly Rate then in effect. The Hourly Rate will generally be lower than the prevailing Downtown Denver rate, reflecting the firm’s lower suburban overhead. Chapter 11 cases are Hourly Rate. The agreed Chapter 11 Retainer is payable at or before the Final Office Meeting. Subsequent attorney compensation will be billed as the reorganization case progresses, subject to Court approval after notice to creditors.

  • Filing Fees:

Filing Fees payable to the Clerk of the Bankruptcy Court are not included in the Flat Fee/Hourly Rate discussions above. Currently (2013) the filing fee for a Chapter 7 case is $306 and a Chapter 11 case is $1,213. The debtor pays the firm and it pays the Bankruptcy Court Clerk as part of the electronic case filing.

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