Do I Need A Bankruptcy Lawyer To File Bankruptcy?
You are not required to hire a bankruptcy attorney to file bankruptcy in California. However, hiring a bankruptcy attorney is likely in your best interest. Bankruptcy involves Title 11 of the United States Code, the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, Local Rules and applicable case law. In essence, bankruptcy is not as simple as “filling in the blanks” on the petition, schedules, and statements and filing those documents with the court. Therefore, the benefits of bankruptcy are best secured with a bankruptcy attorney.
Before you hire a bankruptcy attorney consult with several attorneys until you fine one you are comfortable hiring. During the consultations take note of whether you are being treated as a person or as a source of revenue. Was your free consultation with the attorney or staff? Did the attorney thoroughly answer your questions and address your concerns? Did the attorney explain their fee and what it includes and does not include? If you did not speak with the attorney or felt like the attorney was just after your money DO NOT HIRE THAT FIRM. “Petition mills” will treat you like a product and not a person. You will be shuffled from one staff member to the next and will rarely see a bankruptcy attorney. You will not get answers to your questions and will be routed to voicemail when you call. Simply put, high-volume bankruptcy firms maximize their profit by reducing the time each attorney spends on cases. Since the attorney is the highest paid personnel their time is more valuable, and since the fee is fixed the more time the attorney spends on a case the less money the firm makes. Accordingly, low-wage staff are used to process bankruptcy documents and interact with clients. If you want a more personalized experience a “petition mill” is probably not for you.
Lastly, when shopping for a bankruptcy attorney keep in mind that the cheapest bankruptcy attorney will probably not do the best job. Like many things in life, you get what you pay for. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is, and you probably won’t get the results you want. Therefore, when shopping for a bankruptcy attorney think about what you want out of the bankruptcy process. If you want the attorney to keep you educated and stay in close contact with you, then you probably don’t want an inexpensive attorney. On the other hand, you probably do not need the most expensive bankruptcy attorney in your area. Therefore, shop for a reasonably priced bankruptcy attorney who will give you the benefit of his or her time and attention.
What You Need To Know If You’re Filing For Bankruptcy Without An Attorney
If you are truly unable to afford a bankruptcy attorney there are several things you should know before you take the final step and file for bankruptcy without an attorney. First, educate yourself about the bankruptcy process and read about filing for bankruptcy without an attorney. Second, obtain credit counseling within the 180 day period before filing your bankruptcy petition. You must obtain credit counseling from an approved credit counseling provider before you can file your bankruptcy petition. There are very few exceptions to this rule, so get it done. If you hire a bankruptcy attorney they will make sure you complete this step before filing. Third, be sure to disclose all assets and debts on your bankruptcy schedules. Do not omit a debt because you do not want to included it in bankruptcy. There are serious consequences for omitting debts, the least of which is the exception of that debt from discharge. The overarching rule in bankruptcy is to be truthful, and part of being truthful is not omitting the truth in your bankruptcy documents.