Debt resolution lawyers: How can they help?

By Gina Freeman

Reviewed by Jill Cornfield

Apr 09, 2024

Read time: 5

Dealing with debt and taking care of the children

Key takeaways:

  • Debt resolution lawyers can help you choose among debt solutions and advise you of your rights.

  • Debt resolution attorneys may defend you in court, shut down abusive creditors, and negotiate balances with debt collectors.

As the old saying goes, nobody likes lawyers—until they need one. If you’re desperately in debt or being sued by creditors, you might wonder if you need a hired gun to help clear things up. 

Debt resolution lawyers can be very helpful, but they aren’t right for everyone. In some situations, a legal ally can be the lighthouse that helps you navigate rough water. Other times, a different sort of expert might be a better choice. Let’s explore the options before you sign a retainer or make a payment.

The information provided herein is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. For personalized legal advice, consult with a qualified attorney licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction.

What is a debt resolution lawyer?

Debt resolution lawyers are licensed attorneys who specialize in dealing with debt-related legal issues. They may provide legal advice, defend you from debt lawsuits, file bankruptcy, negotiate with creditors and debt collectors, and submit complaints or open lawsuits on your behalf. 

What can a debt resolution lawyer do for you?

A debt resolution lawyer can answer your questions, help you choose the right debt solution for your situation, and advise you of your rights. If a creditor or debt collector violates your rights, an attorney might start a lawsuit or file a complaint on your behalf. 

Debt attorneys can also tell you if a debt is collectible or if you have a valid legal defense, such as the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is the number of years a creditor has to sue you for a debt. Once that time has passed, they may no longer have legal standing to get a judgment against you. The number of years varies from state to state. Statutes of limitations can be tricky because certain things can restart the clock. A debt resolution lawyer can tell you how to avoid accidentally turning an uncollectible debt into a collectible one. 

A debt resolution attorney can also work with your creditors to negotiate a lower payoff, more affordable loan terms, or more time to pay. If you’re being sued, a debt resolution lawyer can defend you in court. If you have overdue secured debt, like a car loan or mortgage, a debt attorney may be able to prevent the loss of your collateral (the thing you borrowed against). And if all else fails, a debt lawyer may help you file for bankruptcy. 

How much does it cost to hire a debt resolution lawyer?

The cost depends on how the attorney structures your fees. There are four common methods.

Flat fee

The lawyer charges you a flat fee to negotiate one or more debts. The fee depends on the number and type of creditors involved. In general, average fees range from $500 to negotiate a simple credit card balance to more than $5,000 for more complex negotiations with multiple accounts.

Per hour

The lawyer’s fee depends on the amount of time it takes to resolve your case. With this structure, you might pay as you go, but many lawyers require a retainer to begin negotiations. A retainer is upfront money used to cover the hourly rate as the attorney works on your case. Any unused amounts are returned to you. The hourly rate for a debt resolution attorney could range from $125 to $350 per hour.

Percentage of debt

The debt attorney’s fees are a specific percentage of the amount of debt the attorney will negotiate on your behalf. Often, at least part of this fee is contingent on the attorney successfully resolving your debt. 

Percent of amount saved

The attorney charges you a percentage of the money saved when your debt is resolved. Your lawyer earns more when you save more. 

Some circumstances can cause your fees to increase:

  • The creditor sues you.

  • The creditor obtains a judgment against you.

  • You’re trying to avoid repossession or foreclosure.

When to consider hiring a debt resolution lawyer

A debt resolution lawyer might be the right choice if you’re concerned about being sued or if you think you might file for bankruptcy. Lawyers can also address debts backed by property and possibly help you avoid foreclosure or repossession. If a default judgment was entered against you (you lost a case) because you missed a court date, an attorney may be able to get you another shot in court, or help you work out an affordable payment plan. 

How to choose the right debt resolution lawyer

Attorneys must be licensed in the states where they work and are supposed to follow strict ethical guidelines. Sadly, not all do.

Your best bet is to hire a local attorney you can meet with face to face rather than just over the phone or online. Word-of-mouth can be helpful to find a lawyer, but make sure the referral source hired the lawyer for a similar issue. Any licensed attorney is allowed to negotiate debt, but a debt specialist deals with debt lawsuits, negotiations, and collection matters all the time. 

You can verify that a lawyer is licensed and in good standing with your local bar association. You can also check review sites like Yelp, TrustPilot, or the Better Business Bureau. Schedule a meeting to discuss your case directly with the attorney. Find out if the attorney will deal directly with the creditors or if someone else will be doing the negotiating.

Verify the fee structure that the lawyer requires and what will be done on your behalf for that fee. 

Free lawyer for debt resolution

One big obstacle to those wanting to hire a lawyer for debt resolution is the fee. If you don’t have the money to pay your debts, it’s probably also difficult to come up with a retainer—or to pay for negotiations that don’t pan out. 

You may also be able to get free attorney services through a debt resolution company. At Achieve, for example, we've partnered with the Legal Partner Network, a network of attorneys who specialize in negotiating debts. If any enrolled creditor files a lawsuit against a member, we may engage a Legal Partner Network attorney who'll try to negotiate a settlement with the creditor.

What’s next

Debt resolution lawyers are professionals who can help you resolve your debt for a fee. Debt resolution companies offer a similar service. Consider consulting with both to determine which combination of services and fees is right for you. 

If you’re an Achieve member currently enrolled in our debt resolution program, contact us about the free attorney benefit that’s already available to you.

Gina Freeman - Author

Gina Freeman has been covering personal finance topics for over 20 years. She loves helping consumers understand tough topics and make confident decisions. Her professional history includes mortgage lending, credit scoring, taxes, and bankruptcy. Gina has a BS in financial management from the University of Nevada.

Jill Cornfield

Jill is a personal finance editor at Achieve. For more than 10 years, she has been writing and editing helpful content on everything that touches a person’s finances, from Medicare to retirement plan rollovers to creating a spending budget.

Frequently asked questions

Creditors and debt collectors can sue you, but that’s usually a last resort. They start with collection efforts that cost them less, and that usually includes a willingness to negotiate directly with you. Lawsuits are more likely if they believe that you have the resources to pay them, if the amounts involved are large, or if you have cut off all contact with them. Even if a lawsuit is filed, however, there's no guarantee that they’ll win. Negotiation may still be on the table. In fact, you may be able to negotiate a debt after losing a lawsuit.

Debt resolution attorneys may bill a flat rate, by the hour, a percentage of the amount of debt, or a percentage of the amount they save you. Fees range widely depending on your location, and the lawyer’s reputation and experience. Hourly rates run between $125 and $350 per hour.

You may be able to refer your creditors to your attorney and avoid dealing with them directly. That’s a service that you should ask your lawyer about upfront when discussing fees and terms. 

Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you can stop debt collectors from contacting you or specify how they are allowed to contact you by writing a cease-and-desist letter. In some states, a letter can also stop original creditors (that aren't covered by the FDCPA) from contacting you, or you can ask them in writing to contact you through your lawyer.

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