Over one million people required the protection of bankruptcy law in 2008. With economic conditions still deteriorating well over one million are expected seek bankruptcy protection this year. Bankruptcy is designed to decrease and in some cases even eliminate the burden of debt and to provide property protection from creditors.
Pro Se - Self Filing
If bankruptcy is seriously being considered then one of the most important decisions to make is whether to hire a personal bankruptcy attorney. Some bankruptcy advisers suggest that if a case is not complicated the best option is to use the services of a petition preparer rather than a licensed attorney to prepare the filing then file the case "pro se" without the services of an attorney. The question is: what is and what isn't a "complicated" case? The thinking is that if someone has no secured debt, no assets, is unemployed and no recent credit purchases their case should be an uncomplicated relatively easy chapter 7 filing. OK, how many people really fit neatly into this category? One risk in self-filing is unintentional bankruptcy fraud. In other words, can one really prove that a large credit purchase did not occur full well knowing that bankruptcy is soon to be filed?
Seeking Professional Help
A more complicated case requires the help of a bankruptcy professional. A personal bankruptcy attorney can help determine first of all whether going bankrupt can actually resolve the debt problem in the first place. If so, which type of filing is more appropriate: Chapter 7 or Chapter 13? The attorney will make sure there is no unintentional bankruptcy fraud which can turn out to be a serious matter. The attorney can also file the appropriate documents which generally have very strict court deadlines and represent the filer in court if this is necessary.
Finding the Right Law Firm
The key to achieving the best outcome is to make sure the attorney selected is a bankruptcy specialist, has enough and appropriate experience and will spend an adequate amount of time with the client upfront so as to make the appropriate decisions and legal maneuvers to achieve maximum property protection. A "filing mill" where the client has no or little contact with the attorney assigned to the case may not result in the best outcome for the client because of the lack of communication critical to understanding the case details and circumstances specific to the client.
Many times a personal bankruptcy attorney will offer an initial free consultation. Knowing what the going rate is will help in finding a law firm that specializes in bankruptcy law with competitive rates. However, even with a competitive fee schedule the ultimate cost of a bankruptcy filing is determined by how complex a case is and how long the case will take to complete among other factors. Rates are important but more important is whether the client feels comfortable with discussing their personal financial situation and how qualified the lawyer is to handle the case. It is not a good idea to compromise quality of service for low fees. Competitive fees and effective experienced legal service will provide the best result.
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