You absolutely should hire an attorney. Have you heard of the expression that "a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client"? That goes double if you are not a lawyer and are attempting to get a chapter 13 plan confirmed and successfully completed. Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases are can be complex and you will be faced with many issues through the pendency of the case which can last up to 5 years. I highly recommend consulting with a bankruptcy attorney in your community.
I don't think paralegals can represent clients. An attorney in my state was very seriously dealt with when it was discovered that he had been allowing his paralegal do all the work for years. Ch. 13 is very complicated, and may allow debtors certain advantages over ch. 7; if you are not aware of those things and file yourself, you could be creating a detriment to your "fresh start". Also, if an attorney makes a costly mistake, you have a claim against him or her. If you make a mistake, too bad.
I suppose you could file a Chapter 13 for yourself or have a paralegal do it, but that is really a bad idea. The person who told you the results would be the same is no friend. Chapter 13 cases present challenges that just cannot be handled by a paralegal who cannot even go into court with you. Their sole role would be as a petition preparer. You wouldn't trust your life in the hands of your doctor's secretary or your car repairs to the kid who pumps gas, so why would you trust your financial health and life with someone who cannot even give you legal advice when the going gets rough. The minimum term for a Chapter 13 is three years, the maximum is five years, that is a long time to struggle with all the pitfalls that can occur in a Chapter 13 without good legal advice. Your money would be better spent by hiring a competent attorney who can get you through the system as smoothly as possible.
The best reason to hire a lawyer is that it doesn't cost you any more to hire a lawyer than to represent yourself!
It's true. The legal fees you pay through your bankruptcy plan come out of the money you would otherwise have to pay to your unsecured creditors, such as those collectors & credit card companies. Think of the irony of this!
In addition, Chapter 13 isn't about the obvious paperwork, it is about understanding the strategy & finding the loopholes. No paralegal is qualified to advise you about these secrets for getting the most bank out of a chapter 13.
Still, if you don't trust lawyers, you will go ahead & do what you want. And when it fails, you will have no one to blame but yourself!
Hope this perspective helps & good luck!
I suppose you could defend a traffic ticket yourself, and even in traffic court some people find huge advantages of using an attorney who has a good working relationship with a traffic hearing officer. So why take the risk of doing it yourself in something as complicated as Chapter 13 bankruptcy?