I've been in contact with two lawyers that I'm considering. One offers to file after only receiving the filing fee, with the remaining balance paid off in installments over a year. He's local so that's good. Not sure how much bankruptcy experience he has, doesn't advertise as having a lot, so I'm guessing not.
The other is further away but has extensive experience and seems overall a great attorney. He told me the fees have to be paid in full before filing and that it's the law because of the automatic stay. So now I'm wondering if a post-filing payment plan is always illegal, or if it's possible to do what some do with keeping car payments after filing (reaffirming?).
For a Chapter 7 BK filing, all the fees have to be paid up front, before the BK is filed.
However, for a CH 13 the payment is partially paid up front and the balance is paid in the Ch 13 plan payment. That is normal.
If you are filing a BK 7, the fees have to be paid prior to filing. The attorney can't collect it afterward.
For the OP, IMO it's better to get an attorney that is familiar with the process so your BK runs smoothly. Going with an inexperienced BK attorney can be a recipe for disaster.
I was represented by an attorney who only practiced BK and only in the court I had to file in. I'm convinced that having a lot of experience in the court where you're filing is critical. The laws are interpreted differently by different courts, and even the hot buttons for a particular trustee are important.