Can Bankruptcy be Filed without a Lawyer?
The short answer is yes: individuals can file on their own, or use a non-attorney bankruptcy preparer to help with the paperwork. There are risks involved with the do it yourself approach.
What a Bankruptcy Attorney Does
Most individuals, and many lawyers, do not understand the ins and outs of the world of bankruptcy. Making mistakes during a bankruptcy can cost someone a lot more than the fees that most consumer bankruptcy attorneys charge.
In a bankruptcy case, a lawyer has two primary roles. First and foremost, the attorney should advise and counsel the debtor. Should a Bankruptcy Petition be filed? Should Chapter 7, or Chapter 13 be used? Which of my debts can be discharged? Can I exempt my property? What should I do about my mortgage, car loan, etc.? All of these, and more, are questions that the attorney will answer during a typical case.
If a bankruptcy petition is filed, the attorney (or the attorney’s staff) will also fulfill a clerical role: preparing and filing the necessary paperwork. Although this might seem to be of lesser importance, doing the paperwork correctly cannot be separated from the role of providing advice. The legal decisions made by the debtor are often reflected in the paperwork that is filed. For example, if a question is raised about the treatment of an automobile loan during the bankruptcy, one of the first things the lawyer (or bankruptcy judge) will do is look at the schedules to see what value the debtor gave for the property, and what the paperwork says about the debtor’s intentions.
After the Petition is filed, the attorney will appear with the client at the first meeting of creditors.