Why Not File For Bankruptcy Without A Lawyer?

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Why Not File For Bankruptcy Without A Lawyer?

By |November 2nd, 2014|

You’re in debt, and you want to get out from under the mess of overdue bills.

Hiring a lawyer seems like stupid. Why spend money to have someone to draw up the bankruptcy papers when you can use a paralegal service, notario or similar provider to get your case filed.

Even better, go down to the courthouse and get the forms on your own. Fill them out at the kitchen table one evening and you’re good to go.

After all, you’re a smart person. You know your financial situation better than anyone else, so go for it.

But before you do that, consider these thoughts. I know, they come from a bankruptcy lawyer – someone who’s got a vested interest in having you hire an attorney to handle your case (after all, we bankruptcy lawyers like it when people hire us to do work for them).

So take it with a grain of salt if you must, but take it nonetheless.

Only A Lawyer Can Help Protect What You Own

When you file for bankruptcy, you can protect some things you own and not others. In order to protect those things – no matter how little they’re worth – you’ve got to state the proper statutes and code sections you’re using to rely on.

In addition, the run-up to the actual bankruptcy filing is typically when a lawyer will sit down with you do go over which assets are at risk.  If there’s something you own that can’t be protected, a lawyer can help you either convert those assets to something that can be protected or file a different type of bankruptcy.

This bankruptcy planning should be done only by a lawyer because it’s considered legal advice. A non-lawyer isn’t legally allowed to give you legal advice, but would you actually take that sort of advice from someone who’s got no formal training in the field?

Only A Lawyer Can Represent You In Court

When you file for bankruptcy, you’re required to attend a meeting with the trustee.  If you file for Chapter 13, you’re going to need to attend a court hearing in front of a judge.

Only a lawyer admitted to practice in the bankruptcy court is allowed to represent you, give you legal advice, and help get your case through the system.

Maybe that doesn’t sound like a big deal to you – after all, how hard can it be to stand up and tell the trustee or the judge your story?

But consider this: if you filed with a lawyer then there’s a pretty good chance that there are some holes in your case.  Maybe an incorrect exemption was chosen, or a document left out.  In that case, hiring a lawyer before the case is filed is likely going to cost far less than bringing in a clean-up professional after things go sour.

Only Lawyers Know The Courthouse Culture

When you file for bankruptcy with a non-lawyer document preparer, you’re getting typed documents and nothing more.

The document preparer doesn’t know much about your trustee’s temperament whether the judge is difficult or easy to deal with, and how to best work with the court staff.

On the flip side, an experienced bankruptcy lawyer knows the ropes.

Your lawyer knows which trustees are easy to deal with, and which present a greater challenge.

So, too, with the judges – a lawyer who’s appeared in front of a particular judge knows his or her views and how to maximize your chances for success in your bankruptcy case.

This Is Your Future – Why Take Chances?

If you’re deep in debt and looking to bankruptcy as a way to get a leg up on your financial future, it’s worth it to spend a little more to get a qualified bankruptcy attorney.

Most lawyers will work with you to pay the legal fees over time. Nobody who practices bankruptcy law is looking to get rich off you – we all realize that our clients don’t have a lot of spare cash sitting around.

Our goal is to get you the best help possible – and isn’t that all you really want?

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About the Author:

I've been a consumer protection lawyer since 1995, working to help people end their bill problems. I'm a faculty member at the Student Loan Law Workshop, a nationally recognized speaker, and a long-time member of both the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys and National Association of Consumer Advocates.