How Much Does Bankruptcy Cost: A Look At Attorney Fees

In most bankruptcy cases, the fees an attorney charges are disclosed. In fact, the Court also provides guidelines covering the range of legal fees applicable to work on consumer bankruptcy cases. In chapter 11, an attorney is paid after filing a motion for compensation which lays out exactly how much the attorney is charging and how much time was spent on particular tasks.

However, it seems that in chapter 9 (municipal bankruptcies) fees do not have to be disclosed. This means that the attorneys for Detroit could charge millions in legal fees without ever disclosing to the court or to creditors how much they are charging or what they are spending their time on. The bankruptcy judge in this case decided to take a closer look at the cost of the case, and so the judge intends to appoint an examiner to make sure that the attorneys' fees are "disclosed and reasonable." Among other things, the examiner will probably review the attorneys' fees and inform the court if they fees are out of the scope of permissible legal work. While the parties could object to the appointment of an examiner, it seems unlikely at this time.

Fortunately for most individuals considering bankruptcy, most bankruptcies are handled on a flat fee basis. This means that the price is agreed upon before the bankruptcy is filed, so that a debtor knows exactly how much he or she will be paying for a bankruptcy filing and doesn't have to worry about the hourly rate of an attorney.

Source: Tom Hals, Yahoo! News," Lawyers in Detroit bankruptcy may face scrutiny on fees," August 1, 2013

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