One of the biggest fears clients in NYC have about filing for bankruptcy is the cost of the bankruptcy lawyer. It’s easy to see why a lot of people are tempted by Internet sites that try to make it seem like filing is as easy as printing out a form.
But hiring a bankruptcy lawyer doesn’t cost as much as you think it does. And the costs of going without one can be bigger than you think.
It’s easier to get into trouble than you think.
Sometimes the trouble is minor: a mistake that gets your case dismissed. But even a dismissal can cause problems in the future. If you don’t handle the dismissal correctly you may be able to file for bankruptcy again, but the automatic stay will only last for 30 days.
Sometimes the trouble just disadvantages you. For example, you might have exemptions you don’t account for correctly, so you file the wrong type of bankruptcy and lose your house.
The worst trouble is when you inadvertently commit bankruptcy fraud because you don’t know any better. In these cases, “Oops, I made a mistake,” isn’t much of a defense. You can go to jail for bankruptcy fraud, which means you might end up paying a criminal lawyer because you wanted to save money on hiring a bankruptcy one.
The criminal lawyer, by the way, costs more.
It’s virtually impossible to file a successful Chapter 13 petition alone.
Less than 1% of pro se debtors are successful at filing a Chapter 13 petition. Every part of Chapter 13 is insanely complicated, from the initial filing to getting a trustee to approve your payment plan.
If your creditors start issuing challenges you won’t know what to do.
Your creditors, by the way, will be bringing fully trained lawyers with them. Sometimes a team of them. And if you owe enough money they will definitely make the effort to challenge your case. Some do it as a matter of routine, every time a bankruptcy case gets filed.
Once the opposition starts filing motions you have to start filing answers to those motions. If you don’t know how to do that, or how to make a legal argument that might hold some water, their motions are going to get passed. You might be in a much worse position than where you started by the time they’re done with you.
Because three hours of Google can’t replace three years of law school.
And three years of law school is just the tip of the iceberg. Even passing the bar doesn’t turn you into a good bankruptcy lawyer right away. It takes practice, first under the supervision of an attorney who does know the ropes, and then later on your own.
As an attorney takes on more cases he or she starts hitting the most common situations more often, developing a problem-solving toolbox a few hours of reading over the Internet (even reading our blogs on the Internet) can’t match.
Because hiring a bankruptcy lawyer is affordable.
Bankruptcy attorneys are well aware they are working for and with people who are in a state of financial distress. That’s why the Law Offices of Michelle Labayan offers free consultations, for example. And any bankruptcy attorney will generally work with you to make sure you can take our help without concern.
It’s at least worth exploring how much bankruptcy is actually likely to cost you before you make assumptions that keep you from getting the help you need.
Got questions? Want to learn more? Contact our offices today to get more information.