From time to time callers ask me bankruptcy questions when they have already hired an attorney to file their bankruptcy petition in the Orlando Division. When I suggest that they direct their question to their own attorney whom they have paid fees they usually respond that their own bankruptcy attorney either will not return their calls or has given them poor advice. What can a debtor do when he is dissatisfied with his bankruptcy attorney?
I suggests that people express and document their concerns to their attorney in writing by email or letter. Most attorneys will be more responsive to written complaints.
Filing complaints with the Florida Bar, Better Business Bureau, or online postings is not constructive. Such complaints in the midst of the bankruptcy case will likely hurt your lines of communication with your attorney and be self-defeating. Bar complaints will result in sanctions only in the most egregious instances of attorney neglect and carelessness. Generally it is neither unethical nor negligent for Attorneys to give incorrect legal advice if they are expressing their opinion about matters subject to different interpretations.
A debtor who is unsatisfied with their bankruptcy attorney should consult with a different bankruptcy attorney to get a second opinion. Most of the times I’ve been asked to review an ongoing bankruptcy case I find that the attorney has handled the case competently. Some debtors have unrealistic expectations about how fast and how often their bankruptcy attorney will communicate with them. There is no substantive, legal reason for communications directly with the attorney when there are no legal issues or problems; most ongoing questions can be answered by the attorney’s office staff.
When there is a serious problem with your attorney’s conduct of your bankruptcy case you should retain an new attorney. The new attorney may file a notice of substitution in your case and take over matters in your ongoing bankruptcy proceeding. If you fire your first attorney you are probably not entitled to a refund of your fees paid. Some attorneys, however, will refund all or part of bankruptcy attorney fees upon request to a dissatisfied client so it “does not hurt to ask.”.