How do I find a lawyer to help me with a creditor or collector trying to collect a debt from me?
Attorneys experienced in consumer law or debt collection can help you understand your state and federal rights.
If you have a debt in collection or have been sued by a debt collector, it may be helpful to find a reputable lawyer to advise or represent you.
Under federal law, a debt collector must go through your attorney if they know that you have one, so it’s a good idea – if you get legal representation – to tell the collector the name of the attorney who is representing you and how to contact them. If your lawyer doesn’t respond to a communication from the debt collector in a reasonable amount of time, the debt collector may contact you directly.
How to find a lawyer to represent you
If you’re seeking a lawyer, look for one with experience in consumer law, debt collection defense, or the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Here are a number of ways to find one:
- Contact a lawyer referral service in your area
- Find lawyer referrals in your area by checking the American Bar Association website or your state bar association.
- Identify state-based legal aid programs for low-income consumers
- Consult your local JAG office if you’re a servicemember
- Ask people you know to suggest attorneys they’ve worked with in the past
- Get a referral from an attorney you know or have worked with before
- Depending on the amount and nature of your debt, you may wish to consult with a bankruptcy lawyer. Bankruptcy attorneys may be particularly helpful in many contexts.
Questions to ask when seeking legal representation
To help you assess whether an attorney has a good understanding of consumer law, here are several questions to ask of the attorney:
- How much of your work involves consumer law and representing consumers?
- How many cases like mine have you handled before?
- Do you charge an up-front fee?
- Will I have to pay even if I lose my case in court?
- If I can’t afford to hire you, can you refer me to a consumer law attorney who may not charge up-front fees?
How to ensure your attorney is reputable
Before hiring an attorney, it is a good idea to check your state bar organization to make sure he or she is in good standing. You can find this information by searching the attorney’s name on the state bar website where the attorney is licensed or by calling the state bar organization.
Keep in mind that some states may have more than one bar organization. Be sure you contact the “mandatory” bar association and not a “voluntary” bar association.
What to bring when you meet with a lawyer
Bring copies of your records about the debt and your records of communication with the debt collector with you when you meet with an attorney. Never leave your originals with anyone.
It will be helpful for your attorney to review copies of letters you have received from the debt collector, as well as any copies of records you have kept of phone calls, letters you wrote to the debt collector, or other communications.