Bankruptcy is one of the most complex and perilous legal subjects. Even if your case only involves you as an individual and you think your finances aren’t complicated enough to warrant the involvement of an attorney, the reality of the situation is your chances of successfully prosecuting a bankruptcy without a lawyer who specializes in the subject are minimal at best. Here are some things to consider before trying to navigate a bankruptcy on your own.
Bankruptcies are constitutionally mandated under the jurisdiction of the federal courts. Leaving aside the likelihood any federal judge will tolerate a pro se petitioner, the very act of an amateur navigating the federal rules of evidence for the first time makes the entire prospect of even filing a case, much less litigating one, impractical. An attorney familiar with both the rules of the Bankruptcy Court and the rules of evidence isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity.
In many cases, a bankruptcy can be filed as a “pre-agreed” case, meaning all of the creditors and the petitioner have agreed ahead of time to a certain settlement of the case. While this still requires the approval of the judge, it can bypass the time-consuming and expensive process of litigation, offer and compromise some cases require. These kinds of already settled cases simply can’t be composed by a lay person. They require the involvement of an attorney with specialized knowledge.
Attorney-client privilege is one of the most powerful reasons any legal issue requires a client to retain professional counsel. Without the ability to speak and write frankly and openly about your case, preparing for a favorable outcome rapidly becomes futile. Not everything in your bankruptcy is likely to reflect well on you unless your attorney can withhold the subjective in favor of the objective. This is of particular importance if you are in a dispute with a creditor. Once you are at trial, you will have scarce protection against unfair questions.
Bankruptcy attorneys like those at the Law Office of Barbara B. Braziel generally only argue cases in their specialty. This means they are very likely well acquainted with the nearest federal courthouse, the clerks, judges and various assistants. The average petitioner will know none of these people and will further be required to work closely with them and learn their system while attempting to successfully prosecute their case. This is too much to ask, even for a qualified attorney. For a sole petitioner, it is an impossibility.
The synthesis of corporate law and bankruptcy is a perilous enterprise, as those who have been involved in high profile cases will tell you. There are perhaps five people on Earth who both did not graduate from law school and who could carry a corporate bankruptcy case to any kind of a conclusion, much less a favorable one. Just understanding the average Chapter 11 case requires numerous attorneys and a small army of paralegals and trained assistants. It is out of reach for the average person.
It is always a good idea to consult with an attorney in any legal matter. In a bankruptcy, it simply isn’t worth the confusion and expense to try and go it alone.
About the Author: Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and long walks in the park with her husky Snowball. You can find her on Twitter at @LizzieWeakley and on Facebook at facebook.com/lizzie.weakley.