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Can I file bankruptcy without a lawyer?

New York, NY |

I don't feel like paying a lawyer thousand of dollars to fill out forms. So, this guy I know downloaded some bankruptcy attorney software from BitTorrent, and he's going to burn me a copy. Anything I should be careful of while working up my petition?

Attorney Answers 4


Did you hear the riddle about, what do you call someone who didn't feel like paying a surgeon thousands of dollars to make a few knife cuts? (A: A corpse.)

If you think all we do is "fill out forms" you are sadly mistaken. Your decision to do it yourself will probably cost you far more than an attorney would have. But don't let me spoil the fun you're about to have.

Oh, and by the way, the things you "should be careful of" fill the 1,500 page book I have that contains the bankruptcy code and rules, about 10,000 pages of treatises in the law library, and roughly 300,000 pages of court decisions since 1978. I and other attorneys are reading and talking with other constantly, as well as going to conferences in not-very-glamorous places, in order to keep up with changes in the law. Knock yourself out.

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Yes, be careful of yourself. You are walking away from how much debt? Isn't the cost of an attorney really free at that point.

Look at a qualified bankruptcy lawyer like an insurance policy that guarantees your case will be successful.

The simplest most honest incorrect response can cost you your discharge.

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So last month a guy just like you came into my office. He thought he filled out all of his forms correctly, but he was in the process of losing everything to the bankruptcy trustee. The Trustee’s job is to take your non-exempt property and distribute it to your creditors (Do you what exemptions to use? Or how to apply them? Or what constitutes property in the first place?) We my guy did not know the answers to these questions and was just about to lose his $4,000 tax refund.

Personally I do not charge $4,000 for a Chapter 7, and if he would have paid me or another attorney he would have not either.

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There's an old adage that describes a person who represents himself "he has a fool for a client". Be very very careful. There is a reason why several of my previous clients have been attorneys practicing in other areas of the law.

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