Being Your Own Bankruptcy Attorney is Like Being Your Own Dentist

10 Sep Being Your Own Bankruptcy Attorney is Like Being Your Own Dentist

Pictures for Russ-12 Attempting to be your own bankruptcy attorney is a very bad idea that almost always has disastrous results. This is true for both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases.

I was at bankruptcy hearings this week, and I watched a hearing in which the debtors, a husband and wife, had filed their case without an attorney. There were problems with the case, and it soon became evident that the debtors had no idea what they were doing. The Trustee’s staff attorney conducted the hearing, and I thought her remarks were very educational. Among the many good points she made were the following:

  • She has specialized in bankruptcy law for many years, but if she had to file bankruptcy, she would not represent herself. When you represent yourself, you get emotionally attached to the case. You lack the ability to be objective.
  • In cases in which Chapter 13 debtors represent themselves, the chances of them successfully completing the plan are abysmal.
  • Just because something is done a certain way in one state doesn’t mean it will happen that way in South Carolina. This point cannot be overemphasized.

During her discussion with the debtors, she practically begged them to hire counsel. She reminded them that in a Chapter 13 case, the attorney can get paid from payments the debtors make to the Trustee, at least for some of the attorney fee.

Her wise counsel is worth repeating here. Sure, you can represent yourself in any legal proceeding just like you can also be your own dentist. But the results of doing either one can be messy and painful.

Some debtors believe that they can save money and use a bankruptcy petition preparer instead of hiring an attorney. This, too, is a bad idea. Bankruptcy petition preparers are not allowed to give legal advice. Despite this, most do. But do you really want to take advice from someone who has not been trained to give legal counsel, who has never met or appeared before your bankruptcy trustee, and who has never argued a motion in the court in which your case is filed? Where will the petition preparer be when questions come up during your case? Where will he be after the case closes and issues arise?

The advice here is applicable to both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases. And while Chapter 7 is–at least in some ways–a simpler process, getting bad advice can actually cause far more harm in Chapter 7 cases. You may lose your property, you may get prevented from discharging your debts, and you don’t have the automatic right to dismiss your Chapter 7 case as you do with Chapter 13.

Bankruptcy law is extremely complicated. Don’t try to navigate the bankruptcy system on your own. Hire an attorney. It will save you money in the long run.

Written by Charleston Bankruptcy Attorney, Russell A. DeMott

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Russell A. DeMott is a Charleston, South Carolina bankruptcy lawyer who represents consumer debtors in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy. He is the author of the Charleston Bankruptcy Blog. He is also a member of the South Carolina Bankruptcy Blog. He files bankruptcy cases for clients in the Charleston, South Carolina division, which runs from Myrtle Beach to Beaufort. The DeMott Law Firm also represents clients in foreclosure defense and mortgage modification. You can also connect with Russ on Google Plus Russell DeMott. Russ can be contacted directly at (843) 695-0830 or by email at russ@demottlawfirm.com.
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