I really, really hate this question, and I get it asked it more than you’d think.
Honestly, almost every bankruptcy attorney in Utah is good (at least the ones I know by name). I consider myself to be in the upper echelon of bankruptcy attorneys in the state (Robert S. Payne, Utah Bankruptcy Attorney), but I’m not “the best.” “The best” depends on what you’re looking for.
I recommend looking at the online reviews. Clients are brutally honest. And yes, I believe that some attorneys may have canned reviews out there, and there are some really, really cranky crackpots who post bad things about attorneys that are only partially true, but overall, it’s the best way you can judge attorneys unless you have a referral from a friend or family member who went through it. If you want to see my referrals, there are a lot out there and I appreciate every client who had kind things to say.
As for how much “the best” charge:
1. Student Loans: There are a few attorneys who have started trying to do bankruptcy court adversary proceedings to determine whether or not student loans can be discharged. I know that they have to charge additional fees above and beyond the bk, but they are good. You’re just looking at another $3,500 to $5,000 retainer to pay them to try that student loan dischargeability action.
2. Zero (0) down bankruptcies or payment plans: There are some attorneys who offer payments plans, and if this is what you’re looking for, then I’m not even close to the best here. You end up paying a lot more in fees than you think, but some people feel like it’s their only option to file.
3. Chapter 11: Some bankruptcy attorneys file complex chapter 11 cases, but I understand that the retainer on this kind of case of $10,000+. You are paying for their expertise in this kind of case.
4. Chapter 12: I have no idea. I’ve never met a family farmer or fisherman who needed to file a complicated chapter 12 in Utah, and I sure don’t do them.
5. Chapter 7: Every attorney files chapter 7s. Most charge from $800 to $1800 in fees. Some of the young guys are really good and sincere, but to find “the best,” you may want to ask the attorney how many chapter 7s he’s filed. This will tell you a lot.
4. Chapter 13: Most of us file chapter 13s too. Same as above, ask your attorney how many he’s filed. It’s not a guarantee that he’s good at it, but numbers mean experience, and experience is a good thing. Upfront fees range from $0 up front to the full $3,500 up front.
5. Creditor Violations/FDCPA/FRCA/Stay Violation attorneys: I don’t know of any bk attorneys who make this their primary focus. Most of us are nerdy transactional attorneys, and we’re just not the best mad-dog, take-no-prisoners kind of litigators. The ones who do it usually get paid on a contingent fee basis.
6. Business bankruptcy attorneys: This is kind of a misnomer. If you are self-employed, you’re really just a chapter 7 or 13. If you need a complex chapter 11, see above. And if you run a family farm or fishery (fish hatchery?), see above as well.
7. Creditor attorneys: Almost every litigation attorney dabbles in this. Ask a friend who has tried collecting on someone in bankruptcy, and they can give you a referral.