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Interview with an Attorney

We interview people for things all the time.  Whether we know it or not, we’re constantly trying to gauge people and find out what their angle is, especially when trusting them with something as important as your legal affairs.  We’re thrilled to let people know where we stand during an interview and we want them to feel comfortable with us.  Below, we list and answer a number of questions you should ask in an interview before you hire a bankruptcy attorney, or any professional for that matter. 

Questions you should ask during an interview relating to experience:

  • Will you be handling my case from start to finish? 
    • Yes, Harmon and Gorove prides itself on handling every aspect of your case.  We don’t farm our work out to people we don’t know. 
  • What percentage of your clients are individuals or businesses?
    • Most of our clients are individuals or consumers.  That said, we often handle small business bankruptcies for our clients and are very experienced at handling small business bankruptcies. 
  • Is there anyone else in your firm who handle bankruptcy cases and will they be involved?
    • Harmon and Gorove handles its cases in house as a team.  Every member of Harmon and Gorove has the experience necessary to handle your case from start to finish.

Questions you should ask during an interview relating to your case:

  • Should I even file bankruptcy?
    • We get this question all the time and based on our analysis of each case, we often advise that bankruptcy wouldn’t help someone.  We want everyone to feel comfortable with the process and being honest with someone and actually helping them is more important to us than making money by convincing someone to do something they don’t need to do. 
  • What are my alternatives to filing for bankruptcy?
    • We take the time to list out your options but honestly, there usually isn’t a good alternative to bankruptcy.  See our blog here about the alternatives to bankruptcy.  Usually, you have two options.  File or don’t.  As we stated in our previous answer, bankruptcy isn’t for everyone but when it isn’t right for you, it doesn’t mean one of these debt settlement companies is a better idea. 
  • How long will the process take?
    • This depends on the type of bankruptcy you file.  A routine Chapter 7 usually takes 3-6 months from filing date to discharge. This varies based on your individual situation. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy usually runs for a minimum of 36 months to a maximum of 60 months.  
  • Will you keep me up to date about deadlines and other things I need to know?
    • We always keep people posted about what’s going on.  You’ll receive letters from the court and from us.  We’ll also email and call you in addition to letters we send out to people just so you always know what’s going on.  That’s why it’s so important that you take our calls and keep us up to date on your contact information. 

Questions you should ask during an interview related to Service:

  • What is the best way to get in touch with you?
    • The best way to reach our office is via email.  We check our email religiously and we can often respond in a matter of hours.  We’re always happy to get a phone call from you though and we’ll provide you an answer as fast as we can. 
  • Who will attend court with me?
    • We pride ourselves on showing up to court with our clients.  Unless it’s a dire emergency or it’s been pre-cleared with you, one of our attorneys will be there with you when you go to court.  Even when someone else attends on our behalf, know that we have a relationship with that person that spans decades and we trust them implicitly. 
  • How will you keep me updated on the progress?
    • As we stated before, we’ll keep you up to date with letters, phone calls and emails.  We never want you to be in the dark about your case. 

Questions you should ask during an interview Related to Cost:

  • How do you calculate your fees and what do they include?
    • We are a flat fee law firm.  We don’t charge retainers like most attorneys.  We quote you an UP FRONT price.  No games, no gimmicks, no $15 to respond to an email or $20 to answer a phone call. What you pay is what you’re quoted and any possible extra fees are disclosed at the time. We base our fees on the complexity of your case and the time necessary to complete a standard case.  
  • Is there a retainer?
    • NO.  We never charge a retainer fee for any legal work.  We always quote you a price up front. 
  • Are your fees negotiable?
    • Generally, our fees are among the most competitive in the area. We are the low cost legal leader in Newnan district.  We constantly work to save money and keep overhead low so we can afford to provide you the best legal services at the lowest possible cost. That said, we are flexible and can usually find a middle ground to make everyone happy. 
  • Do you offer payment plans?
    • We don’t want your finances to get in the way of you getting the help you need.  We are happy to discuss payment plans with our clients.  

We’ve spent the last 36 years working hard to make our clients feel comfortable and well represented.  During an an interview, you should always ask your attorney, or any professional you’re hiring for that matter, some combination of these questions.  

Millennials & Credit Cards

The types of people carrying credit card debt is changing in Georgia and around the country. Millennials, a group of people born between 1981 and 1996,  were once known for their aversion to overdue bills, especially as many of them became adults and entered the workforce during the Great Recession. Because of this experience, a significant number of millenials steered clear of credit cards. However, as they have experienced salary growth and with credit card issuers developing cards that are particularly appealing to younger people, millennials have taken on a larger and larger share of credit card debt.

Along with that overall increase in credit card debt, millennials now experience higher levels of delinquent debt. Over 8% of credit card balances carried by these younger Americans were more than three months past due. This marks a high in the level of delinquent debt carried by younger people not seen in nearly a decade. Experts say that millenials and other young people have been inspired to open credit cards as purchasing power and income has grown. Many of these new cardholders feel confident that they will be able to pay back whatever bills they run up. The problem is, life often gets in the way. Personal circumstances like an unexpected job loss or an illness can interfere with a person’s ability to pay. When credit cards are involved, interest rates are exceptionally high, occasionally topping 35%. Even people with exceptional credit often pay interest rates of 18%.

Credit card companies often tweak their marketing to appeal more strongly to young people. These companies use tons of data and studies show that traditional incentives like 0% interest and cash rewards are less enticing for millennials than sign-up bonuses or travel credits. The worst part about the rise of credit card debt is that it accompanies a big rise in interest rates recently by the Federal Reserve.  This makes it even more expensive to carry a balance on a revolving line of credit like your traditional credit card. 

When people find themselves facing insurmountable debt burdens, they may not see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, a qualified bankruptcy attorney could provide sage advice and educate people on the available options that can help you achieve your financial goals. If you find yourself drowning in debt contact the attorneys at Harmon and Gorove.  We have decades of experience helping people achieve the dream of being debt free.  

COVID-19 and your Finances

COVID-19 is a disease the likes of which no one alive has witnessed or has any real recollection of.  While we’re Attorneys here and not Doctors, we know that COVID-19 has a real impact, not just on people, but their finances as well.  Many Americans don’t have paid sick leave and if they do, perhaps they don’t have enough.  Many people work in industries that often shut down when they don’t have enough visitors like hospitality, the restaurant business, lodging and seasonal jobs that depend on foot traffic.  Let’s be honest, I don’t know about you, but I do know that I’ve been out and about and all I can say is, foot traffic is at a minimum to say the least.  Additionally, with schools and businesses closed, many of the industries that support these large employers like parking attendants,  dry cleaners, sanitation workers, janitors and custodians as well as hourly secretarial staff are all seeing hours cut back or eliminated period.  A recent CNN article suggested that more than half of all jobs in America are at risk.  The author states, “Nearly 80 million jobs in the US economy are at high or moderate risk today, according to analysis in the last week from Moody’s Analytics. That’s more than half of the 153 million jobs in the economy overall.” We could potentially take years to get back to where we are today if the worst case scenario materializes and for many, that is simply too long.  Thousands of small businesses will be affected by the economic downturn and millions of people will experience furloughs, layoffs and closures.  That said, we are here to help.  Harmon and Gorove has successfully helped people navigate economic downturns and have assisted them in making their financial situation work for them, even in the worst of times.  We understand that no one ever expects to be here, but don’t worry, we are here to help in a compassionate and judgement free way.  If you’re suffering from job loss, or simply just having your hours cut, contact us today for a free, no obligation consultation to learn how we can help you navigate the most recent economic downturn. 

5 Common causes of Debt

People come into our office all the time with debt.  It’s kinda what we do.  If you’re here and you’re not in debt or seeking a divorce, chances are, we won’t be able to do much for you.  Over time, this has given us perspective on what actually causes debt.  Below are the top five causes of debt. 

1. An unexpected emergency

Many people find themselves in debt because they aren’t prepared when something bad happens. Your entire HVAC system may go belly up and need significant repairs. You may crash your car or get really sick only to find your insurance doesn’t cover everything. To keep these scenarios from wiping out your savings and leading to debt, you once again need to boost your emergency fund.

2. College costs

Going to college is expensive. So many people find themselves saddled with debt from college and often in the early part of their lives. This makes getting ahead and acquiring those assets that help build wealth even harder than before.  The average class of 2016 graduate left school with $37,172 in student loan debt. Those student loans can force a new graduate into even more borrowing just to cover basic necessities, which only furthers the downward spiral into debt.

3. Loss of income

Losing your primary means of generating income can really hurt you. You might have been laid off or maybe you did something stupid and got yourself fired. Maybe you’re self employed and had a sudden decline in revenue for your business. Maybe you had to stop working to care for loved one.  Perhaps your health took a turn for the worse and you were forced to retire early or significantly reduce your hours.  When horrible things like this happen, it’s easy to find yourself overwhelmed and debt can quickly follow.

4. Being poorly insured

Insurance is one of the most vexing things about life. It frequently feels like a waste of money … until you need it. Many people find themselves in very serious debt  when a bad event hits and they aren’t properly insured. Imagine  your house burning down without homeowners insurance or wrecking  your car with a liability only policy. All of these things can lead to serious financial consequences. 

5. Keeping up with the Joneses

People are always looking next door and seeing what the neighbors are doing,  yours truly included. Maybe Todd across the street is putting in a pool or your college roommate is sharing photos of their latest European vacation. Maybe your obnoxious sister-in-law just closed on a house twice the size of yours. Life really feels unfair when you feel like you have to go without and like many people, you may feel pressure to “keep up” with those you perceive to have it better than you. 

DON’T DO IT THOUGH, THIS IS A RECIPE FOR DISASTER.

Chasing a lifestyle your income won’t support will have you turning to credit cards and other consumer debt to fund frivolous buys. The spiral into debt can be quick, overwhelming and unforgiving. The average millionaire drives a Honda, Ford or Toyota, and lives in a normal house in a middle class neighborhood. No one is saying you shouldn’t treat yourself to nice things or go on vacation every once in a while; but if you can’t actually afford those things you’re hurting yourself in the long run.

If you’ve found yourself drowning in debt, whether it’s one of these causes of debt or not, reach out to the experienced and compassionate lawyers at Harmon and Gorove for a free consultation today.  We have decades of experience helping people get their finances back on track and and creating lasting prosperity for our clients.  

 

The $1,000 Emergency!

Everyone has an emergency pop up from time to time.  The car needs repairs, you broke your arm, the toilet is backing up or the roof is leaking.  An unexpected emergency can cause a serious problem for lots of people.  We have talked about the savings rate in America before and how so many people have so little money saved for retirement or unexpected expenses.  A new study recently released by bankrate.com paints a very bleak picture for people in the United States when it comes to funding an emergency. We you can read the study in the post above or we can give you the TL;DR summary here:

  • Bankrate reports indicate that the percentage of U.S. adults who would use their savings to cover a $1,000 emergency room visit or car repair has remained within the range of 37 to 41 percent since 2014.
  • Nearly four in 10 Americans (37 percent) would borrow money in some capacity if hit with an unexpected bill.
  • Among respondents who reported that they or a close relative paid for a major unanticipated expense in the past year (28 percent), the average cost was $3,518.

 

Having an emergency can be expensive.  The average cost of an unexpected emergency expense is over $3,500.  That can put a pinch on the wallet of even the best savers in our country, yours truly included.  Over 30% of the respondents to the survey said that they would have to take on additional debt to cover the expense of a $1,000 emergency.  Many people even turn to fundraising services like Go Fund Me to help with unexpected problems.  While all of these are options in a time of need,  what we really need to look at is the cause of the problem, our ability to save.  So many people are burdened with debt and debt collectors live to make money off the shame of having debt.  Funding unsustainable debt keeps up from being able to get our lives back on track and increase our savings.  

That’s where we step in.  Bankruptcy is viewed by many as a last resort.  Something that is shameful or should only be considered if you’ve exhausted all options.  The truth is, Bankruptcy is a good financial tool that can help you get your life in order and get a fresh financial start.  Harmon and Gorove offers Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy plans to help you get your life back in order and hit the reset button on your finances.  Contact the attorneys at Harmon and Gorove today for a free consultation.  Let us help you sort out your life so the next time a $1,000 emergency comes along, you’re prepared. 

What Happens Next: Tips for a Stress Free Bankruptcy

Your bankruptcy case is filed. Whew… 

But what happens next?

After you’ve gone and collected all the documents, answered my questions, answered more questions, after I’ve filled out your petition and submitted it to the court and paid your filing fee, what next?

If you really want to know the truth, the tough stuff is done now.  The heavy lifting is over and now it should just be smooth sailing, automatic even. In order to guarantee that smooth sailing though, we do need you to take some simple steps.

This is what we need from you, a member of your bankruptcy team.

1.  Read your mail

You’ll get mail from the court and our office.  We will send you copies so you can see what’s going on and what we have done on your behalf.  The overwhelming majority of things going on in your case will play out via paperwork generated by our office, so please, read your mail.  It will keep you up to date. Additionally, this mail will tell you when your Meeting of Creditors or 341 hearing will be scheduled.  

2.  Look over what you have signed

A bankruptcy is a paperwork nightmare.  Trust us, we go through approximately 100 sheets of paper per client.  Because we go through so much paper, you have certainly signed your name to several sheets of paper.  Go back and take a look at everything you’ve signed. Read the questions and your answer. Make sure it’s complete and true to the best of your knowledge.  If you find anything that’s wrong or happen upon an omission, point it out quickly. Innocent mistakes that you identify and correct rarely a problem in a case. Mistakes are common and harmless if fixed.

3.  Keep in touch

If something major happens in your life like a move, job change, sudden inheritance or you’re seriously ill, I need to know.  Each of these situations can have an impact on your case. 

4.  Ask questions

If you don’t understand something, let me know.  If I don’t know you’re not fully understanding something then I can’t do anything about it.  You aren’t expected to understand bankruptcy the first or even the second time through. I’ve been doing this every single day for over a decade and have filed thousands of cases and there are subtleties about the law that I often learn as we go through this.  If you’re lost, let me know so I can explain it to you. 

5.  Respond quickly

When I ask for documents or call for information, please, get it to me quickly. Bankruptcy cases happen fast.  You need to get information to the right people quickly and delays can be quite harmful.

6.  Don’t freak out.

Bankruptcy may seem like a lot, and it is but what happens next depends on you.  It’s a new and strange situation in your life.  However, you made a good choice in hiring an experienced bankruptcy attorney to guide you through the process.  My team has decades of experience. If something comes up that we haven’t seen chances are, we can easily figure the situation out.  Most bankruptcies are very routine. There is no reason to lay awake nights terrified of some horror you’ve dreamed up. If it worries you, ask me about it.

In the end, we can work together to get your finances back on track and relieve some of the stress you’re dealing with in life.  If you find yourself in need of a bankruptcy attorney to help you navigate the complicated world of federal bankruptcy law, contact us today for a free consultation to find out how bankruptcy can help you.