Foreclosure Defense Lawyers
What to Consider When Hiring a Foreclosure Defense Lawyer
When you buy a home, you probably feel confident in your ability to pay off your mortgage. However, your situation may change over time. You may lose your job, go through a divorce, develop a serious health condition or disability, or encounter other forms of adversity. A mortgage that once seemed reasonable suddenly can become a huge burden. The prospect of losing your home is frustrating and stressful. Fortunately, consumers facing foreclosure have many layers of protections. The laws in this area are complex and frequently changing, though, so consulting an attorney can make a huge difference. An attorney will understand the current state of the law and know how to mount a sophisticated defense. They also can make sure to comply with the procedural rules for these cases, which is essential to preserving your rights. If any alternatives to foreclosure are available, they can advise you on the full scope of your options.
Deciding who is the right lawyer for you can be challenging. A basic Google search can be a good place to start, but this should be only a first step. Google searches will lead to a wide range of results, including many paid listings that do not necessarily reflect the skill of a lawyer or their aptitude for your case. Similarly, you might gain useful insights from talking to friends or family members who have hired a foreclosure defense lawyer, but the right fit for them may not be the right fit for you. Each situation is unique. Here are certain guidelines that can help you knowledgeably research and compare attorneys.
Background and Experience
Foreclosure defense is a relatively narrow area that is often connected to areas such as bankruptcy, real estate, and consumer law. You do not need to hire a lawyer who handles only foreclosure defense, although some do, but it should form a meaningful part of their practice. To the extent possible, you should retain an attorney who has assisted homeowners in situations similar to yours. For example, if your state allows both judicial and non-judicial foreclosures, you should hire a lawyer who is familiar with the type of foreclosure that you are facing. If you have applied for an alternative to foreclosure, but your lender is still trying to foreclose on your home, you should retain a lawyer who knows how to handle these dual tracking violations. If you are a member of the US military, you should hire an attorney who understands the special rights and protections under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. Some attorneys may have relevant board certifications or memberships in professional organizations. They may have received awards or other formal recognition of their legal prowess.
In general, you should aim to hire an attorney without a history of serious disciplinary issues. Information about an attorney’s professional record can be found by searching for them on the state bar website for their jurisdiction. You may want to review the details of any disciplinary action to get a sense of the events leading to it. Some violations are less significant than others. You may not want to automatically remove an attorney from your consideration based on a very minor infraction if they are currently in good standing.
On the other hand, a record of serious violations should be a red flag, even if the attorney has achieved some good results. You do not want egregious mistakes by your attorney to result in the loss of your home when it could have been avoided otherwise.
Reviews and Testimonials
Reviews by previous clients can give you a sense of what it would be like to work with an attorney. You may find insights into their personality, level of professionalism, and communication skills. Client reviews can be helpful even if the details of your situation are different from a previous client’s situation. However, beware of very brief reviews that are harshly negative or effusively positive without providing details. These reviews may not be trustworthy.
If an attorney has received favorable reviews from other attorneys, this suggests that they have a strong reputation in the legal community. They may be more likely to be respected by lenders, judges, and opposing counsel, which can help resolve your case more favorably and efficiently.
Often, a foreclosure defense lawyer will discuss their most notable successes on their website or blog. Each matter is decided on its own facts, so you should not assume that you will receive the same outcome as a previous client. However, a history of positive results for homeowners in roughly similar situations to yours can be a promising sign. You may also gain insight into the matters in which an attorney performs most impressively if many of their strongest results involve the same type of issue.
Some foreclosure defense lawyers offer free consultations to prospective clients, while others provide consultations for a modest fee. You can set up a consultation by phone or online after providing some initial details about your case. The consultation helps the client and the attorney decide whether they are the right fit for each other. Even if you are impressed by an attorney’s credentials and achievements, you should not choose them on that basis alone. Instead, you should make sure to work with a lawyer whom you can trust and who relates well to you. You should feel that your lawyer is personally invested in your situation, rather than treating you as just another case number. Ideally, you should set up consultations with several attorneys before deciding whom to hire.
Bringing a list of questions to the consultation can help you decide whether an attorney is the right fit. For example, you may want to ask the attorney about the range of outcomes that is likely in your case, based on the strengths and weaknesses of your position. An optimistic answer may be encouraging, but you should think twice if an attorney makes guarantees or seems much more confident than their competitors. They may be overpromising. Also, you should listen to how the attorney explains their evaluation. They should be able to articulate their reasoning in a way that is coherent and accessible to a non-lawyer.
Fees are another important issue to address at the consultation. Foreclosure defense lawyers often charge an hourly fee, but some may charge a flat fee to handle a certain type of matter. Sometimes an attorney might charge a monthly rate. Since a homeowner facing foreclosure is typically suffering from financial distress, some attorneys may offer flexible payment plans. In many cases, a client will need to pay a retainer fee, which is an upfront payment. If the costs of the case fall short of this amount, the unused portion of the retainer fee may be refunded to the client. Any fee arrangement should be clearly set out in the representation agreement so that you understand your obligations.
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