If you open the Milwaukee yellow pages and flip to the “attorneys” section, you will be bombarded with ads for bankruptcy attorneys. From solo practitioners to specialty firms, there are countless lawyers in the Milwaukee area who can take your case. As you probably know, there are two main chapters of bankruptcy that you can file (7 and 13) with different requirements and outcomes. Bankruptcy laws, though still firmly in place, have changed significantly as of October 2005. As a result, it is important to find a Milwaukee area attorney who is well-versed in the new bankruptcy legislation and how it affects those who file.
Most of the Milwaukee-area offices profiled below offer a free consultation during which a lawyer will review the basics of your financial situation, discuss the best chapter for you, talk about the filing process, and give you a rough estimate for their services. Even though the bankruptcy process is largely paperwork-driven and does not usually involve large amounts of time spent with an attorney, you still want counsel who will treat your situation individually. It may be worthwhile to obtain two or three of these free consultations so that you can choose the attorney who makes you feel the most reassured and comfortable. After all, bankruptcy can be a taxing, emotional process. Because they want your business, many bankruptcy attorneys in Milwaukee even offer evening and weekend consultations.
While many law offices will offer to represent you in a bankruptcy case, you should almost certainly hire an attorney who specializes in bankruptcy proceedings. With the plethora of choices in the Milwaukee area, there is no reason to hire someone who only spends 10% of his or her time with bankruptcy clients when you can hire someone who is truly a specialist. Think of it this way: if you had a problem with your skin, for example, wouldn’t you want to see a dermatologist instead of a podiatrist?
Consider the following well-reputed bankruptcy attorneys in the Milwaukee area:
1. Miller amp; Miller, Attorneys-at-Law
633 W. Wisconsin Ave., Suite #1500
Milwaukee, WI 53202-1918
Accessible from most MCTS downtown routes, including 10, 12, 20, 23, 30, and 31.
Attorneys: Felicia Styler Miller, James L. Miller, Paul A. Strouse, and Judith L. Du Sell
Located in the West Town section of Milwaukee’s downtown, in a building coincidentally topped by a giant Miller Lite sign, you will find this specialty firm. Because Miller and Miller has four attorneys in the office, you can call for your free consultation and often meet with someone as soon as the next day or two. You will fill out a questionnaire and bring your most current financial statements. The attorney will review your situation, give you an estimate, and offer you a thick packet asking for your complete financial profile. If you decide you want to hire a Miller and Miller attorney, then you can put down a deposit on the services at the time your return the completed history with all the necessary documents.
2. Milwaukee Bankruptcy Center
Attorney Peter J. Zwiefelhofer
7311 W. Burleigh St.
Milwaukee, WI 53210
Accessible from MCTS Bus Routes 60 and 76.
A solo legal practitioner and also a Certified Public Accountant, Pete Zwiefelhofer specializes in bankruptcy cases, offering personal, friendly service to Milwaukee debtors. The total estimate for a Chapter 7 filing through Milwaukee Bankruptcy Center is approximately $860, which includes the bankruptcy filing costs in addition to regular attorney fees. (Your exact legal fees, of course, will depend on your individual situation.) To retain Attorney Zwiefelhofer, the typical downpayment is only $200. Pete’s website is rather detailed and provides ample background information on bankruptcy, including an excellent summary of the new bankruptcy reform laws and how they impact those who file. Even if you do not plan to hire this attorney, you should review the excellent FAQs and other information on his website. If you want a bankruptcy attorney who communicates well and provides as much information as possible up front, the Milwaukee Bankruptcy Center is a safe, secure choice.
3. LegalHelpers.com (web presence for the Macey & Aleman Firm)
611 N. Broadway Ave., Suite 405
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Accessible from MCTS Bus Routes 14, 15, 57, 30, 10, and most other downtown service.
To go in the opposite direction of a Milwaukee solo practitioner like Pete Zwiefelhofer is to pursue services through a national firm. With attorneys in many states, LegalHelpers.com offers plenty of qualified attorneys who specialize in personal bankruptcy cases. If you are concerned about the large size of the firm, keep in mind that there are often big resources associated with big size. They offer a free evaluation and are available by phone 6 days a week to answer initial questions. This firm also has a 24-hour information line that can answer some basic questions if you’d rather listen than read. LegalHelpers claims to represent over 10,000 new individual bankruptcy clients each year, which is a remarkable number. If they didn’t offer quality services, they would not be this successful. You can read about the attorneys in your local office by clicking on the “Lawyer Profiles” link on their website.
About Bankruptcy Court in Milwaukee
The bankruptcy process is handled in the federal court system, not the state court system. Even if a creditor obtains a judgment against you in state court, you must file your bankruptcy case in federal court. If you are a resident of the Milwaukee area, your hearing will take place at the federal courthouse, located downtown on Wisconsin Avenue. Milwaukee is considered part of the Eastern District of Wisconsin. In order to file a bankruptcy petition with this court, you will have to meet residency requirements (location and duration), so consult an attorney for details.
[Note: Nothing in this article should be construed as official legal advice. It is merely basic information about bankruptcy and a review of three firms that offer services in the Milwaukee area.]