Looking for the best bankruptcy attorney in Dayton Ohio? You’re not alone.  So far this year (as of June 27, 2020) 1,618 bankruptcy cases have been filed in the Dayton bankruptcy court. The best bankruptcy attorney in Dayton Ohio did not file all of them. This means that a lot of people probably did not have the best bankruptcy attorney for their needs. You can do better. In this article, I’ll show you how.

Who is the best bankruptcy attorney in Dayton Ohio? The answer is, of course, it depends. The best bankruptcy attorney for one person is not the best for someone else. Everyone’s situation is different and best is a subjective term.   Opinions differ. What you need is the best Dayton Ohio bankruptcy attorney for your circumstances.

Who am I and why should you read this?

I’m Richard West, board certified consumer bankruptcy specialist and certified credit counselor. Since 1986, I’ve been considered by many of my clients to be the best bankruptcy attorney in Dayton Ohio. Debt relief, bankruptcy and credit rebuilding is ALL I’ve done for decades.

I’m writing this article to you as if you were my best friend. Really. If you’re here, you need help. If a good friend or one of my family members came to me and asked, “Rick, how would you advise someone to help them find the best bankruptcy attorney in Dayton Ohio for their serious financial problems” I would tell them everything that I’m telling you in this article.

Although I’ve helped thousands of people overcome crushing financial blows for decades, never has the need been greater for people, perhaps like you, to understand all the options we have to survive, and even thrive, despite the horrible economic losses caused by the pandemic.

I’ve helped people laid off by NCR, GM, Delco and Lexis-Nexis, as well as a hundred other Dayton Ohio businesses. We made it through the 2009 meltdown. And, of course, I’ve helped thousands of families who suffer the normal sort of life tragedies and setbacks. The sheer magnitude of the current economic crisis is truly unprecedented.

I want you to find the best way forward. You owe it to yourself to be open to all options, including bankruptcy. To do that you need the right attorney.  I’ll show you how to find that person.

Best bankruptcy attorney for one not best for all

Fortunately, there are a number of bankruptcy attorneys available.

Unfortunately, not all are going to be a good fit for you.

And, just because one of your friends or acquaintances had a good experience with attorney “A” this is no guarantee you will feel the same way if you hired “A.”  The fit between different personalities is an important consideration, and you will want to interview several attorneys, once you create your “short list” after doing your homework.

Best Bankruptcy Attorney is subjective

I am not going to say, nor should I, that I am the best bankruptcy attorney in Dayton Ohio. My clients are allowed to say it but we all know that this is subjective. It is a FACT that more people, year after year, hire my office than any other law firm for personal bankruptcy.

The number of cases a firm files year in and year out is an indication of stability and recognized competency in this area. It is an objective measurement of the overall trust that the community has in that firm.

I would urge caution if the firm you are considering files fewer than several hundred cases a year. Bankruptcy should be the firm’s main practice, and they should be doing a steady number of cases if they are competent.

Beware Dabblers

This is related to the number of cases filed. Especially now! There is discussion in the legal community that the pandemic is going to result in an increased number of bankruptcy filings. I think this will happen, and it has apparently attracted the attention of the “dabblers.”

Dabbling in bankruptcy is so dangerous that just this week Ohio’s main legal malpractice insurance company issued a warning to lawyers NOT to dabble in bankruptcy. Ohio Bar Liability Insurance Company, in a recent blog post said Bankruptcy is a prime example of an area of law in which you don’t know what you don’t know.

I’ve known this to be true for years. OBLIC warns that there are numerous legal mistakes that attorneys make even in cases that seem to be ordinary chapter 7 cases.

You should remember this if a “dabbler” tells you “no problems, you have a simple case.” You might want to ask who his malpractice insurance is with, and if he is aware of this warning.

Better still. You heed the warning, and don’t consider using any attorney who dabbles in bankruptcy. It should be the one and only practice area for the firm, and the attorney should have many years of experience in bankruptcy, not just years being an attorney.

Factors to consider

Sometimes, bigger is better

Size matters.

There’s a lot of work that goes into a bankruptcy case. There are dozens and dozens of checklist items, deadlines to calendar documents to review and all of this really takes a well-trained team.

Just as you would not expect your heart surgeon to be answering the phone, entering test results in your chart and scheduling the operating room himself, neither would you expect a successful and seasoned bankruptcy specialist to be practicing without an adequate team of paralegals and legal assistants.

If the attorney answers the phone, or tells you that he doesn’t have paralegals, he does all the work himself, you should think that one through.  Does this make sense?  Why is there not a trained office support staff?

Obviously, if all the attorney has is himself and a secretary, he has to make the pitch that you will be better off working with him and not a paralegal.  I disagree.

Because I know how these little offices work.The attorneys can get overloaded by answering phones, running the practice (yes, it is a business as well as a profession), and trying to type their own petitions.  They are uploading documents to trustees, and seeing clients – all at the same time – and can easily overlook important details, and miss critical items that can make a huge difference in the case.

Years in Practice – can old dogs learn new tricks?

Not just years in practice.

Years practicing bankruptcy law.

Not to say that lawyers cannot learn new practice areas. Of course they can.  But bankruptcy is truly a complex body of law.  Most attorneys who don’t know this like to think of bankruptcy as a “forms practice.” Meaning that it’s mainly filling out forms.

This was, unfortunately, exactly what one lawyer thought, when his bankruptcy form program “automatically suggested” that a certain exemption would be proper for a retirement account.

In fact, that’s exactly what the attorney told the trustee!

But, the software was wrong.  And so the client lost the entire IRA account to the trustee. I think it was around $30,000. Lost. Just like that. I knew instantly what the problem was. The trustee knew as well. The attorney was clueless.

This just goes to show that being current on bankruptcy caselaw decisions is just as important as knowing how to look up the law.  Bankruptcy is not for novices. No matter how many years practicing other areas of law an attorney may have, unless he has substantial experience in bankruptcy, trouble may lie ahead for him, and his clients.

Number of cases filed

While “best bankruptcy attorney in Dayton Ohio” may be subjective, the number of cases filed by a firm is a factual, objective measure of the level of trust in a firm, evidenced by clients actually hiring the firm.

Here are actual numbers, taken from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court PACER system, showing the number of cases filed by the top firms this year and for the last few years:

bankruptcy cases filed by attorney 2020 (june27,2020)

These are cases filed in Dayton in 2020, as of June 27.  (the lower-filing law firm names are removed but the data is available on the bankruptcy court’s PACER website)

As you can see, West Law Office files nearly twice as many cases as the next-in-line law firm.

For 2019, the Dayton court numbers were:

West Law Office 575

#2 law firm – 252

#3 law firm – 208

#4 law firm – 201

#5 law firm – 185

and for 2018, the Dayton court numbers were:

West Law Office 599

#2 law firm – 200

#3 law firm – 193

#4 law firm – 183

#5 law firm – 165

Reputation

Reputation in the community is a good indicator of how well an attorney is performing, and so how well you might expect the attorney to do for you.

But, you need to put all of this information together to get the most accurate picture.

Just focusing on one recommendation is not always a good idea.

And, recommendations from friends are not necessarily helpful.

You really don’t know the details of your friend’s case, and you friend’s experience may or may not be typical of how his attorney normally handles cases.  Further, your friend probably doesn’t have any other bankruptcy attorney experiences to compare his to. So, the friend’s information, well intended, has limited value.

You would think that if you know an attorney, you will want to get an recommendation from him or her, right? Perhaps not.

Why?  Because, in my experience, attorneys tend to recommend their friends.  And, unless the referring attorney had a lot of experience in bankruptcy, his or her referral may be about as useless as just asking your friends for referrals.

Internet reviews can be very helpful, especially if there are a large number of them stretching back for several years in the past.

A track record of success takes years to build and you can see it, or lack of it, pretty quickly just by googling the attorney.

Some attorneys, like me, have hundreds of reviews stretching back for years, and consistently being published on the web.

Other attorneys have virtually none. And, I have noticed a few attorneys who seem to be obsessed with getting reviews recently. They had none, or few for years and now all of a sudden, you are seeing reviews. All of this should be taken into consideration.

BBB reviews are also good sources of information. You can see how long the firm has been rated by BBB, and get a sense of the feedback on that forum.

Another attorney review resource is AVVO.

Look at the attorney’s website

The attorney’s website is a window into their practice.

And, if the attorney actually wrote it, you can get a real sense of his or her personality.

Interestingly, I have notices that few of the websites for bankruptcy attorneys in Dayton Ohio seem to be written by the firm owner. They all seem to be “third party accounts” of the firm, and they all read pretty much the same.

If you can’t tell who wrote it, at least you can tell if it appears to be helping you with information that is useful and clear, easy to understand, and if you get the sense that the attorney really is interested in helping his clients.

The website is totally controlled by the lawyer, it’s his soap box to show the world what his firm has to offer.  What does the website say to you?

Make your “short list” then interview

Once you have gone through the above, done homework, dismissed the dabblers, and identified a few promising possible lawyers, you need to call them on the phone and interview them.

Due to the pandemic, most Dayton Ohio bankruptcy attorneys are offering phone consultations. Some also offer office consults. I am offering both, and if we meet in the office we strictly follow CDC guidelines, masks and distancing, sanitize all surfaces, the whole program.

Interview several attorneys. You may be amazed at the differences. And, like the website, the office and staff of the lawyer will tell you a lot about the attorney and the firm. Are they really friendly, or do they make you feel like you are interrupting them? Are the offices neat and clean? Is the attorney’s appearance appropriate? Are you treated well? Does the attorney actually listen?

Conclusion

You now have the advice and counsel I would give my friends and family members looking to find the best bankruptcy attorney in Dayton Ohio (or wherever they may be).  These are my personal recommendations, based on over 30 years practicing bankruptcy law.

Thinking about bankruptcy is not pleasant. It’s frightening. I know when I was at my financial breaking point, I felt like a failure because I couldn’t pay my bills. I knew that I really was not a failure but it sure felt that way to me. I know how it feels and I don’t mind sharing this with my clients.

You have not failed. You have a problem to solve. Keep an open mind. Do your homework, follow these recommendations and find the best bankruptcy attorney in Dayton Ohio for your needs. Best wishes.

Rick West