Often people contemplate filing for bankruptcy on their own. Their thinking is that if they don’t have enough to pay their creditors, how can they afford to pay a lawyer?
While everyone has their own unique circumstances to consider, it’s generally a good idea to hire a lawyer to help you with the bankruptcy process for the following reasons:
1. It’s usually more cost efficient to hire a lawyer. A good analogy is hiring a tax accountant when you have a complicated tax situation. Odds are the tax accountant is going to be able to help you minimize the amount you owe or get you a bigger refund. And the amount you save or receive as a refund will outweigh the cost of the tax accountant’s services. The same reasoning applies in a bankruptcy case, especially as the 2005 bankruptcy laws have made the process even more complicated. A good bankruptcy lawyer will enable you to minimize (within the law) the amount you need to pay to creditors and maximize (within the law) the things and amounts you can keep. Additionally, assuming you hire someone good, you’ll also sleep much better at night knowing that all the i’s have been dotted and all the t’s have been crossed.
2. Lawyers can file your case electronically using something called case management/electronic case filing (or, CM/ECF for short). This tool is not generally available to non-lawyers. It means the case can be filed from the lawyer’s desktop computer rather than requiring a trip to the courthouse. The petition, supporting documentation and the fee are all handled online. In addition to saving everyone time and hassle, it also is extremely helpful in cases where time is of the essence.
3. It’s more time efficient to hire a lawyer. When you do something for the first time, whether it’s fixing your kitchen sink or filing for bankruptcy, there’s always a big learning curve that takes up more time than you thin it will. Getting familiar with the process, getting your finances in order, getting all the paperwork done and making sure all creditors are notified takes time and energy. Bankruptcy lawyers do this every day. They know what questions to ask and what to expect. And the time you save in working with a lawyer is likely going to be more valuable to you than the money that is ultimately spent. Essentially, if you’re going to get involved with the bankruptcy process, make sure you do it right or else you end up paying for it in other ways. The most important thing to spend time and effort on is finding a lawyer whom you trust and are comfortable with. That’s what will save you the most time in the long run.
To discuss these issues and any other bankruptcy-related issues, please feel free to contact me or any of our other attorneys at Haynes & Krieger.