How to Be a Rock Star Client

social security couple.optimizedSome of my clients are always on my good side. Sometimes clients achieve that status by the grace with which they handle difficult circumstances. Bankruptcy is, by definition, a difficult thing to face. Sometimes its the way they deal with me and my staff, making our jobs easier. We look forward to seeing them. We get a kick out of helping them. The whole process is made easier. Here’s how to get on (and stay on) your attorney’s good side.

  • My number one rule: show up when we expect you.  Come on time. It’s that simple, whether it’s an office meeting or court hearing. My time is valuable, and you’ll stay on my good side by not disrupting my schedule. Recently I had clients show up 45 minutes late for a 45-minute appointment, and then express surprise that I was walking out the door as they walked in. As you can no doubt tell, neither of us were happy by the end of that exchange.
  • When I say show up “on time” I don’t mean two hours early, either. Every attorney’s office is a little different, but I think mine is pretty typical. I don’t have a lot of room for people to wait, and I can hear everything that goes on in my waiting room. Clients waiting for hours until their appointment time can be just as disruptive as showing up late.  (And don’t even get me started on people who shout into their cell phones in my waiting room.)
  • Don’t show up without an appointment if you know you need one. Usually the first time I meet with a client I go over when they do and don’t need an appointment. There are times when its fine to stop by, and I will always try to accommodate a client, especially when they are worried. But because my schedule is fairly rigid, I may not be able to. I never delay seeing a client who has made an appointment for one who hasn’t. And it should go without saying that I will run you over on my way out the door if I’m on my way to court.
  • Come prepared. If we have asked you to bring something to an appointment, bring that with you. I have a very short questionnaire I ask prospective clients to bring to their initial appointment. Not a hard thing to fill out at all. Probably one out of five people haven’t bothered when they get to my office. Occasionally people even tell me why I don’t need the information requested, but the truth is that I can’t advise you without background information. Nor can I file your case without certain information and documentation. You will stay on our good side when you come prepared with the information we have asked you to bring.
  • The corollary to number three is not to bring a lot of extraneous paperwork that we haven’t asked for. For example, if we ask you to bring copies of your credit card statements, it’s much appreciated if you take the time to eliminate duplicates. Some of my clients have been carefully accumulating all their financial records in one place, and understandably want to hand over all that stuff to me. However, your filing system may not make sense to me, and I would rather you keep your records and use them to answer my questions rather than trying to divine those answers from your stuff.  And if you organize your records according the the questions I ask, we will love you forever!
  • If the answer to a questions is that you don’t know, tell us that, too. One of the questions I ask clients is whether they have been sued. If you haven’t been opening your mail for a long time, including certified mail and mail from lawyers, the right answer to that question may be that you don’t know. I would rather know that you don’t know, than take you at your word and be wrong. On the other hand, if you can find the requested information, like looking up account numbers on your credit report, your attorney will love you for that.

Preparing for bankruptcy can be a nerve-wracking experience, and I promise you that an experienced bankruptcy will understand your angst.  But if you can engage in a mutually respectful relationship, the process will be easier and your experience will be better.

 

About

Däna Wilkinson (pronounced "Donna") is a bankruptcy lawyer practicing in Spartanburg, South Carolina and serving South Carolina's upstate region, including Greenville, Spartanburg, Gaffney, Union, Anderson, Easley and Pickens. She has been in practice for more years than she cares to count, but it’s more than 20 years. Däna has been a bankruptcy lawyer from the very beginning of her career as a lawyer.

Däna went to law school at the University of South Carolina, where she was Student Works Editor on the South Carolina Law Review and a member of the Order of Coif. She started doing bankruptcy work while still a student, working for a bankruptcy boutique firm whose members included a Chapter 7 panel trustee, and recognized experts in Chapter 11 reorganizations. She enjoyed the work from the beginning, and upon graduation took a job as a law clerk to the Honorable Rodney Bernard, bankruptcy judge for the Western District of Louisiana. Judge Bernard had spent a number of years on the bankruptcy bench, and was an excellent teacher and mentor. Upon Judge Bernard’s retirement, Däna stayed on for a time as clerk to the Honorable Donald W. Boe, until homesickness for South Carolina struck, and she returned to private practice in Charleston. Four years later, she received an offer to return to Columbia, where she practiced until 1997.

In 1997, planning to start a family, Däna decided to return home to the Upstate, and opened her own practice in Spartanburg in 1998. Over the years, Däna represented all sorts of parties in bankruptcy: business debtors in reorganization, individual debtors, creditors and creditors’ committees, and trustees. In establishing her own practice Däna decided to focus on consumer debtors, ordinary people who find themselves overwhelmed by debt. Her focus is on the individual needs of clients, and on crafting a solution to their unique financial needs. She is committed to helping clients make a fresh start, and preserving their dignity in the process.

Däna is the proud mother of a beautiful, talented and very active daughter, who is, as her mother says, “practically perfect.” She is also active in both church and community activities, all of which means that there is a fair chance that any given blog post was written while in the car pool line or while waiting for a hearing or a meeting to start.

Däna is also certified as a bankruptcy specialist by the South Carolina Supreme Court, which means that she has taken and passed a proficiency examination on bankruptcy law, devoted her practice to bankruptcy for a number of years, and continues to take classes on bankruptcy law and related issues.

Contact information for Däna Wilkinson:

Law Office of Däna Wilkinson
365-C East Blackstock Road
Spartanburg, SC 29301
(864) 574-7944
[email protected]
www.danawilkinsonlaw.com

Däna also blogs at www.bankruptcylawnetwork.com.


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