If you are behind on your mortgage payments and think you need the help of a professional, you'll find that there are no shortage of attorneys willing to take you on as a client. But, there are many different types of attorneys with different experiences, resources, and points of view. For example, a law firm specializing in intellectual property law probably would not be the best choice if you need foreclosure defense and loan modification help, any more than an ear, nose, and throat doctor would be the best choice if you need surgery on your knee.
And, of course, there are always sleazy operators perpetrating all kinds of scams, willing to tell you what you want to hear to get their hands on your money. Read on to find out what kinds of things make for a bad foreclosure defense attorney.
Things to Watch Out For
The attorney is not licensed to practice law in your state. They may be able to help you fill out paperwork and give general advice, but they can't appear in court for you. An attorney who's not licensed in your state may only be able to meet some of your potential needs, which could mean more work for you.
They don't focus on foreclosure defense and loan modification. Some areas of the law seem so closely related that you might think a firm that practices one can handle the other. For example, bankruptcy law seems like it's in the same ballpark as foreclosure defense, and bankruptcy and foreclosure often coincide. Does it really matter?
In fact, it could matter quite a bit. Some attorneys focus on bankruptcy and foreclosure defense, but they may not be the best fit for your needs. The problem you may encounter when you hire a bankruptcy attorney to help with foreclosure defense is that they may push you toward filing for bankruptcy, since that's what they know, even though another course of action may be better for you. A bankruptcy attorney can see bankruptcy as the best solution for more of their clients than it actually is. Remember, if all you have is a hammer, all you see are nails.
It is true that filing bankruptcy will stop foreclosure proceedings, but if your home is the biggest reason you are having financial difficulty, you should explore the possibility of applying for a loan modification first. Successful mortgage loan modification may eliminate the need for bankruptcy, or the need to include your home in bankruptcy.
If your prospective firm is a foreclosure defense and bankruptcy firm, and three quarters of their clients have filed for bankruptcy, with only one quarter getting a loan modification, they may not be the best choice to help you with your loan modification.
They can't prove that they have a good record. Even if your prospective attorney is licensed to practice in your state and focuses their practice in an area where you need help, they may not have a good record and reputation. If your attorney cannot show you positive case results, or has a history of serious ethical violations, you should take this into consideration. You can look your attorney up on the state bar websites for free, and investigate their case results.
They lack the necessary resources to service your case. It takes considerable resources to be able to apply for loan modifications on behalf of clients. A staff of qualified paralegals is required to prepare the applications, hammer the banks, and communicate with all the necessary parties. If your prospective firm does not have these resources, it may reduce your chances for success.
They charge too much. An attorney that charges an hourly fee to work on your foreclosure defense could be extremely expensive. We recently met with a client whose past counsel was asking for an $11,000.00 retainer fee to continue on her case. It's important to understand from the beginning what additional costs and fees you may be responsible for.
They see the world in black and white. Be cautious about any attorney who is either overly optimistic or excessively pessimistic before they have examined the details of your case. Attorneys can be great at selling themselves. If you are offered a guarantee of either a positive or negative outcome, exercise caution. What you want is a firm that is honest, sets realistic expectations, and will do their best for you.
Consider Your Objectives
Think about what your goals are for hiring an attorney. Do you think you could stay in your home if you get a mortgage loan modification with lower payments? Do you want to get out of your house ASAP? Or, do you need to prolong the foreclosure process so you can stay in your house for as long as possible without making payments. Have you considered the possibility of a short sale or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure agreement? Do you think you're a victim of fraud? Your goals for your home and life should be taken into account when considering what type and which law firm to retain.
If you have determined that you need to hire a foreclosure defense attorney, examine some guidelines for choosing the best one for you.
You will be living with the consequences of your and your attorney's actions, or inactions, for years or decades to come. Your credit rating, your family's home, lifestyle, and the opportunities available to you in the future are directly impacted by the results of your foreclosure defense and loan modification efforts. Give yourself the best chance to achieve your goals for your home by speaking with an attorney who focuses their practice on the area of the law you need help with, is honest, and will keep you informed of every development in your case.
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