Do I Need A Lawyer To File Bankruptcy?
If your financial struggle is causing you to consider filing for bankruptcy, you might be wondering if you must hire a lawyer to represent you.
While technically there is no requirement to hire a lawyer.
It is important to recognize that the rules governing bankruptcy, called the Bankruptcy Code, are extremely complicated. A bankruptcy petition listing your assets, debts and other pertinent information is at least 35 pages long (and often longer). Errors in the petition could result in a dismissed (or unsuccessful) case or even loss of property you thought you would otherwise keep. It’s also important that all the information is prepared properly and accurately, because information perceived as misleading could land you in jail for fraud or perjury.
Attorneys go to school for several years to obtain a Juris doctorate degree. With their J.D. behind them, they take on the challenge of their state’s bar exam – if they pass, they are licensed to practice law in that particular state. However, since bankruptcy laws are written by the U.S. Congress, lawyers also need to familiarize themselves with the federal bankruptcy code specifically, which isn’t generally a focus on the bar exam. But even once all of these obstacles have been overcome, it’s important to remember that not all lawyers are the same – experience and focus in bankruptcy matters tremendously.
Although it’s not technically required, it’s most definitely prudent to hire a bankruptcy attorney who is extremely knowledgeable and experienced to assist you along the way. A relatively small expense earns you years of legal experience and the understanding of the bankruptcy code. Do some investigation about the attorneys you are considering working with. Are there complaints about them on government or review websites? You can also check county court records to see if the lawyer has ever been arrested or charged with a crime. One of the best resources for finding a trusted lawyer is simply ask your friends and family members if they know someone who can help you. But ultimately you’ll want to meet whoever you are considering working with to ensure they are knowledge, trustworthy and considerate of your goals.