Bankruptcy: Do you really need an attorney?
If you are filing a bankruptcy case, you are obviously facing financial issues. You are probably trying to save money in every way that you can. So, do you really need to hire an attorney to represent you in your case? The answer, in short, is yes!
While it is possible to file a bankruptcy case without the assistance of a lawyer (this is called filing pro se), it is extremely difficult to have a successful case without one. The bankruptcy laws are complex. You must also follow the jurisdiction’s local rules. Reading a book or a “how to” article on the internet cannot replace years of education and experience that a lawyer brings with him to your case.
There are many pitfalls that a pro se debtor can fall into. For instance, most individuals are not aware of what assets they can (or cannot) protect in bankruptcy. Thus, it is possible that a trustee could take exempt assets from the debtor because the exemptions were not properly claimed.
Another pitfall is the Chapter 7 ”means test” which determines whether or not the debtor is eligible to file a Chapter 7 case. If the means test is not applied correctly, your case could be given a presumption of abuse designation and, ultimately, the court could dismiss your filing.
Bankruptcy laws and rules establish many deadlines. It is common for pro se debtors to miss these deadlines. For instance, the trustee requires a number of documents to be provided for his review, and if the documents are not produced on time, the trustee will postpone the meeting of creditors or even move to dismiss the case.
While paying attorney’s fees may seem like an expense you want to avoid, it is actually one of the wisest investments you can make. What you stand to lose in your case far exceeds the amounts a bankruptcy lawyer will charge you to handle your case.
"My undergraduate studies were at a business school, so this area of the law was a natural fit. I also like to help people and I find when I present clients in financial distress with the bankruptcy option - an option that clients are always reluctant to take - they are uniformly relieved to know that they have that option, if their financial problems can't be worked out otherwise."