There is a plethora of information available for the savvy consumer on how to prepare and file your own bankruptcy from books to websites to weekend seminars. This begs the question:
Why should I hire an attorney to represent me in bankruptcy if my case is simple and I can do it myself?
The statistics available from across the country on pro-se (meaning the person represents him/herself) bankruptcy filings don't paint a pretty picture for the plight of pro-se filers. A simple google search will turn up some anecdotal disaster stories as well as some more assimilated data if you wish to know more specifics.
It seems that many people like to consider their case “simple” yet they aren't bankruptcy attorneys themselves and haven't ever filed bankruptcy before; so it's not clear to me how they formed such an opinion of their case.
With that being said, it's difficult to call any case simple because every case is unique to the filing parties. It's not just a marketing quirk, your case is unique to you and your situation. There are hundreds of ways in which seemingly similar or identical cases are nothing alike in their treatment under the Bankruptcy Code. This is why I stress so much in my practice that its critical for me to get a complete understanding of both you and your situation. In this line of work, little “details” can change everything about how your case should be approached and filed, or whether you should even file in the first place.
Here are a few thoughts you will want to consider before you commit to representing yourself in bankruptcy.
- When you are in the 341 meeting and the trustee starts asking you questions that don't look like the sample ones you found online I can assure you that the trustee won't want to hear that you are “trying your best” or be willing to let certain “irregularities” in your filing slide. You are being examined under oath and the 341 meeting is NOT simply a formality.
- When you file a bankruptcy case you institute a proceeding in United States Federal Court. You have literally made a federal case out of your financial situation. The same rules of procedure and Bankruptcy code apply each and every person filing a case in the bankruptcy court from the most ill-informed, self-represented individual to the most capable and experienced bankruptcy attorney money can buy.
- Once you file a chapter 7 bankruptcy (the most common type) you CANNOT simply try to dismiss or abandon it if it doesn't go your way. If you weren't aware of this, it's a good indication that you should absolutely not attempt to represent yourself in bankruptcy.
One final thought on the issue of forgoing an attorney and representing yourself. If you file, and then determine that you need to hire an attorney to help you with something that is going or has gone wrong in your case you can almost certainly count on at least the following three things:
- You may have difficulty finding an attorney who is willing to step in and represent you mid-bankruptcy. Some attorneys don't like getting involved with damage control and prefer to only work on cases in which they prepared and filed themselves.
- You almost certainly will pay more than you would have if you had hired an attorney from the start of the case. Sometimes much, much more. If you are in this situation, those flat rate fees that some firms advertise are likely out the door. You might expect to be looking at the going hourly rate for an attorney which could be anywhere from $250-$450 an hour depending on experience and availability.
- There are some things that a debtor can do which cannot be undone, even with the help of the most experienced legal counsel. This means that you could wind up in a situation where you lose certain rights, property, and legal protections for a period of time or permanently. This is potentially the most serious ramification of unsuccessfully attempting to handle your own bankruptcy case.
If you are interested in learning some benefits of hiring an experienced attorney to represent you in bankruptcy check out the following article:
4 Benefits of hiring an attorney to represent you when filing bankruptcy in Florida.
At the Law Office of Alex McClure, I pride myself on working closely with my clients to provide practical solutions to their consumer debt problems. I do everything in my power to provide options which don't involve filing for bankruptcy whenever possible. While I am a bankruptcy attorney, I have helped MANY Florida consumers find realistic solutions for their problems which don't involve filing for bankruptcy, many of which were options that my clients didn't even know existed before consulting with me.
Contact the Law Office of Alex McClure today to find out how I can help you create a sustainable financial future for yourself.
The Law Office of Alex McClure provides services in Lake Mary, Sanford, Longwood, Deltona, Deland and all of Seminole, Volusia, Orange, Brevard and Lake Counties.
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