Bankruptcy used to be a simple thing. If you had a copy of the forms, in most cases you could do it yourself. This was a nice concept considering that most people who file bankruptcy don’t have a lot of money to be spent on hiring an attorney. However, with the changes that were made to the Bankruptcy Code in recent years, thing have become a lot more complicated. Today, a simple mistake in timing the day your case is filed or failing to file one of a myriad of forms (in addition to the “basic” bankruptcy petition package) can cost you big time. It could mean losing your car, losing next year’s tax refund, or even meaning that you have to file again (with 2 bankruptcies now showing on your credit record).
While it is still possible to file on your own (or using a non-attorney Petition Preparer – more about them below), the possible monetary risk is likely much greater than the fees you would have saved by not hiring a good bankruptcy attorney. And a good attorney is generally no more expensive than a poor, inexperienced one. The problem is to determine which is which. This site will give you some clues and ideas of what to look for ... and what things should cause you to to pause and possibly run out of that office.
But here is the sad part... Not all attorneys are both experienced and concerned for their clients. Many are in the business for a quick fee and switch their practices to emphasize the "hot" area of practice where a quick $$ and clients can be found. Around 2010, a number of divorce attorneys and other attorneys with little experience in bankruptcy suddenly became "bankruptcy attorneys." As mentioned above, bankruptcy has become a very technical and difficult area of practice and the number of clients hurt by attorneys that are not experienced has increased.
A WORD ABOUT NON-ATTORNEY
Since these people are not attorneys, they ARE NOT PERMITTED to give you legal advice regarding how bankruptcy works. They are legally only allowed to take the forms that you give them and type them up for you. If they offer to give you legal advice … RUN. Chances are that you are dealing with either a paralegal who could not find a job with a law firm, a person who has read a self help “How to file bankruptcy” book, or a disbarred attorney (who is no longer an attorney for some good reason. The normal fee for such a typing service has normally been set by the bankruptcy courts at around $200.00. A petition preparer offering a $500 bankruptcy IS NOT A BARGAIN! Almost every state’s bankruptcy court can give you number of horror stories about people who have used bankruptcy petition preparers and the Court requires that everyone filing a bankruptcy case be given a Warning pursuant to 11 U.S.C. 527(b) about either an attorney or a petition preparer who does nothing more than prepare the papers for you to file yourself.